The Global Warming Challenge

Evidence-based forecasting for climate change

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Gore proposes new condition on climate forecasting challenge . . . Armstrong accepts and awaits a reply

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On June 19, 2007, Professor Armstrong proposed the Global Warming Challenge to Mr. Gore in an effort to stimulate a scientific approach to forecasting climate change. The Challenge asked that Armstrong and Gore each put $10,000 into a Charitable Trust Fund on December 1, 2007. Armstrong bet that over the next ten years he could forecast temperature change more accurately than any climate model that Mr. Gore might nominate. (Armstrong’s forecast would be that global mean temperature would not change over the ten years.)

On July 6, Mr. Gore sent a cordial reply stating that he was too busy. In response, on November 28, 2007, Dr. Armstrong extended the deadline to March 26, 2008, and made the task easier: Mr. Gore was asked merely to provide a checkmark beside a leading climate model and to sign his name.

Mr. Gore’s spokesperson replied on Armstrong’s answering phone on around February 5. The caller apologized for being so late for responding to the November 28 letter. She said, “Senator Gore declines.” No reason was given. She said to call if there were any questions. Attempts to reach her by phone failed despite leaving callback messages. Armstrong then contacted her by email with questions for Mr. Gore:

“You have made dramatic forecasts of a dire future and have asked people to make big sacrifices on the basis of those forecasts. I would be grateful if you would explain:

1. Why are you unwilling to back your forecasts in a challenge intended to promote scientific forecasting of climate change?

2. Under what conditions would you be willing to back your forecasts in a challenge against my forecasts from a simple scientific method that is appropriate in situations of high uncertainty: the naïve “no change” method?”

The spokesperson said that with respect to question #1, “Mr. Gore simply does not wish to participate in a financial wager.” Armstrong responded that it was fine by him and that we could “merely do it for its scientific value.” The spokesperson said that she would ask Mr. Gore. Armstrong asked if Mr. Gore would also respond to question #2.

The second question is of particular importance given that we have not been able to find any scientific forecasts to support global warming –or any that would support negative effects from global warming –or any to support the notion that efforts to reduce man-made CO2 would have a favorable impact on the climate. See Green & Armstrong’s paper “Global Warming: Forecasts By Scientists Versus Scientific Forecasts,” Energy & Environment 18 (2007), 995-1019.

Armstrong said that this is a scientific issue, not a political issue. Opinion polls do not provide a scientific approach in this situation, even when some of the respondents are climate experts. However, procedures do exist that would allow us to make scientific forecasts.

Meanwhile, Professor Armstrong awaits Mr. Gore’s response to the revised challenge.

Written by climatebet

February 14th, 2008 at 9:14 pm

3 Responses to 'Gore proposes new condition on climate forecasting challenge . . . Armstrong accepts and awaits a reply'

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  1. Who’s Controlling the Dialogue?

    A great deal of effort is going into controlling the dialogue about many important issues of our times. Take, for example, global warming. There are those who wish to control this “conversation”. It’s instructive to look at this activity for its broader implications on public discourse and policy making.

    Let me start by suggesting that there are only two answers and an explanation to the question of whether global warming is occurring. The first answer is: “I don’t know”. While there is preponderance of evidence that has documented important changes to global climate, the larger question of permanent, cataclysmic change is actually undeterminable. Which leads me to the second answer: “I don’t give a damn”.

    Now, that answer requires an explanation.

    If this dialogue is about creating public policy, then why are we being asked to determine such policy based upon things which we don’t know and can’t actually prove? Is the indeterminable quality of that conversation deliberate? Can we, or should we, actually make policy on that which we don’t know?

    Here’s a novel idea: How about determining public policy on what we know? So, what do we know? We know three things: (1) oil and gas are exhaustible sources of energy; (2) their use injures, kills and pollutes; and (3) our dependence on foreign sources for oil has made America a target for international terrorism and distorts the pursuit of true American self interests.

    We don’t have to wait for definitive answers to the question of global warming. We know enough, now, to make responsible public policy. We know enough now to make the decision to promote existing alternative sources and pioneer new sources of renewable energy. It is hard to imagine that America could not easily wean itself off of Middle East Oil… should it want to.

    The vast majority of Americans live on a small percentage of our land. And, the vast majority of unpopulated land is in areas that are viable locations for solar, wind and hydroelectrically generation. America’s survivability, today, and even more so in the future is based upon our intellectual capital. We have the most powerful military in the world (not the largest) simply because we excel in the technology that supports our military.

    Our future economy will also be dependant on intellectual leadership. What is more relevant to our survival and prosperity than controlling future sources of new, renewable energy? Where is the leadership, today, that will insure our future intellectual capacity? Hell, even some of the oil companies know their future demise and are moving toward a brighter tomorrow. Imagine the job generation that will follow such new technologies. How do we help them and ourselves?

    We need to understand that our public dialogue, like much in the world, is controlled by larger interests. Our best defense is an informed and educated population. Most of the problems of this country are solvable. The issues and answers are not “liberal”… “conservative”… “red”… nor “blue”. The issues that are at the core of our future success are those that resonate within the daily lives of the vast majority of Americans who are working hard, raising families, and contributing to the social fabric of our country.

    Any public figure who uses divisive terms and language are, somewhere down the line, making money off of sustained public controversy.

    And that is something which this country can do without. Let us move the conversation back to a more profound and straightforward dialogue. Let us find our true American voice: the voice of reason.


    15 Feb 08 at 5:52 pm

  2. In my years as both a student and a trainer I have found that the minds with the greatest grasp of a topic are usually the ones that can conjure the clearest, most compelling explanations. From your reply to Michael I perceive that you have grasped the biggest picture in this whole Energy/Economic/Environmental debate.

    My opinion:

    Resources are limited, so application of resources to the development of manageable opportunities with sweeping future consequences is the most prudent course. The anthropogenic global warming issue does not qualify; therefore those who incite frenetic policy making to attack the “problem” (to the tune of trillions of dollars, I am told) are either foolish (which most, I suspect, are not) or are promoting a different agenda than the one they want us to believe they espouse. Either way, more intelligent dialog, such as what I see here, needs to permeate the nation and the world, and fast, before we are mired in new, expensive and irreversible policies aimed at the wrong targets.

    I fear, though, that we are trying to stop a runaway steamroller.


    21 Nov 08 at 12:26 pm

  3., if anyone is trying to control the conversation, it’s those who shout that skeptics, regardless of the reason for their skepticism, are “deniers”. The whole effort to use “consensus” as a weapon against a group of scientists is intended to stifle debate.

    But before we decide what to do, shouldn’t we know the extent to which various options will work? I’m a big fan of American energy independence. To me, electric cars, nuclear power and coal plants could help a lot. But environmental lobbies block efforts to build either type of plant.

    They also block construction of new transmission lines – which is how the energy from a wind farm or solar panel field gets from Montana to New York. Do you support efforts to build high-power transmission lines around the country to help lower the risk of condition-sensitive energy generation? Otherwise, a prolonged calm wind would result in cities going without power. Or excessive cloudiness could result in brownouts. Is that an acceptable solution for your home?

    I think holding the science of climate change to the same standards that other government agencies have to use is more than prudent. It’s also fair. To say “you just have to believe” when there’s no forecasting model that projects an expected outcome to believe IN, is beyond foolish.


    2 Feb 09 at 3:08 pm

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