Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Climate is Changing - Wanna Bet?

Over at FiveThirtyEight, whiz-kid statistician Nate Silver has issued a challenge to all climate change skeptics. Here's the first part of it:

For each day that the high temperature in your hometown is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit above average, as listed by Weather Underground, you owe me $25. For each day that it is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit below average, I owe you $25.

Although the challenge is interesting and has been getting a lot of blog coverage (see here, here, and here), there are two reasons I don't think the outcome is likely to prove anything. First, definitive global warming proof can be gathered only over long time periods (i.e., decades), and it seems unlikely that anyone will continue the challenge for decades. A few warm months does not climate change make.

The second reason this bet is inconsequential is that few people deny that global temperatures are rising. Anyone with the ability to interpret a simple graph can see that the earth is getting hotter (see the Wikipedia graph above). The debate for most climate change skeptics is whether humans are causing the warming, a question that Silver's bet does not address.

A bet that lasted decades, on the other hand - something like the Simon-Ehrlich wager - would be really interesting.

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