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Official sceptics go gambling

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry have issued a challenge to the Heartland Institute - one of those climate bets that come along to enliven things for us from time to time. I must say, I think it would have helped if they had got someone who spoke English to write the text for them, because I'm not entirely clear what the bet is.

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) hereby presents to the Heartland Institute a challenge as to whether the Earth’s climate will set a new record high temperature this year. The challenge will be settled using the NASA GISS mean global land surface temperatures for the conventional climate averaging period (defined by the World Meteorological Organization as 30 years) ending on December 31, 2015.  If the global average temperature does not exceed the mean temperature for an equal period ending on the same date in any previous year for which complete data exist, CSI will donate $25,000 to a nonprofit to be designated by Heartland. Otherwise, Heartland will be asked to donate $25,000 to a science education nonprofit designated by CSI. It is CSI’s intent to repeat this challenge every year for the next 30 years.

I think they are saying that they expect the 30 year mean to be higher each year than any other 30 year mean on record. If so then the bet is obviously piffle. The annual temperature could fall dramatically this year and the 30-year mean would still increase.

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Reader Comments (68)

Gobbledygook, and why use GISS?

Jun 15, 2015 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Wilkinson

Why use GISS? cough... try this

Caution and shame about just anything has gone out of the windows there by the look of it - they'd likely rig the result out of spite as bureaucrats do 'pon occasion. Several Heartland speakers having cast aspertions on / mocked them regarding their antics at the Heartland conference - they are rather thin skinned in some ways......

Jun 15, 2015 at 9:08 PM | Registered Commentertomo

CSI is adopting a flippant attitude towards the "biggest threat facing humanity" demonstrating that they've lost that bet.

They are now trying to get lucky on this new bet and they are evidently hoping to win. The proper response from the Heartland Institute is to set terms that would benefit them.

After all, none of this has anything to do with "climate change" or has any bearing on it.

Jun 15, 2015 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

" The annual temperature could fall dramatically this year and the 30-year mean would still increase."

And what doest that tell Bayesian Brute about those who maintain there has been no warming for 18 years past ??

Jun 15, 2015 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

But sceptics don't believe they can tell the future. That's the whole point of being a sceptic.

Jun 15, 2015 at 9:20 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Don't sound very sceptical to me!

Jun 15, 2015 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Homewood

The proper response is "so what?"

Jun 15, 2015 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Assuming this is not a piece of propaganda, how about suggesting compare outturns with the IPCC projections published in 2001 (perhaps use one of the main scenarios whose projected CO2 emissions were close to what has subsequently happened).

Since that was baselined on 1980-99 averages, perhaps it suggested that 20-year averages were more suitable than 30.

To avoid risks of the numbers being affected by dramatic retrospective revisions in locations where no or little data was collected, perhaps it might be sensible to use an average of the UAH and RSS satellite lower troposphere readings. They cannot both be lukewarmers, but nor are they both catastrophists.

Global average temperature anomalies have risen since the 1980-99 average, but not by as much as was projected in 2001. The interesting question is how accurate would the projection have to have been for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry to believe it was a reasonable basis for policy?

The wider the bands around the projection that CSICOP want to win the bet, the more they are being skeptical about the risks of substantial global warming. If they really claim that any positive change should be enough for them to win, then this suggests they have serious doubts about projections of 2 degrees warming over a century. So it seems that it might be reasonable soon to add CSICOP to the lukewarmer camp.

Jun 15, 2015 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I don't gamble, but I would not trust a roulette wheel "maintained" by GISS NASA. If they keep changing the past results, how could they be trusted not to fix the future results?

Jun 15, 2015 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I consider your abetting of a sexual predator, Russell, to be an unacceptable monstrosity. We are done.

Jun 15, 2015 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

Don't they OWN GISS?

Jun 15, 2015 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Choosing an El Nino year to launch the bet is more 'cynical' than 'skeptical'.

How about GISS v GCM projections, for a nice little earner on the side?

Jun 15, 2015 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterbullocky

Ha..not surprised.
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry are just a narrow minded philosophical group anyway who push "consensus" views to the great unwashed.

Jun 15, 2015 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrapetomania

CSICOP is a religious cult, worshiping the Consensus in every science debate and charging all unbelievers with their version of blasphemy. That has been plain throughout their existence. I think my recent post, An Inalienable Right of Man: No Religious Coercion, is applicable to them. I also gave my opinion of them some time ago in a comment here, where I wrote:

"I know CSICOP, by its dogmatic rejection and suppression of anything that challenges the scientific consensus. It represents a slavish adherence to the overreaching speculations of academics, or current scientific authorities, which it represents (falsely) to be the "scientific facts" or "settled science". Having found the central, historical truth that renders the "science vs. religion" debate/war obsolete (and upon which CSICOP feeds), my findings literally erase the reason for its existence. The war CSICOP fights is misbegotten..."

Jun 15, 2015 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Why use GISS? Because we already know what the result will be (after GISS has fixed the data).

Jun 15, 2015 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterchris moffatt

Congratulations to Harry Dale Huffman on his" scientific discovery and verification of the great world design of .. constellation forms; myths and legends; sacred traditions, images and words; and megalithic monuments of precise construction and astronomical alignments. Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Holy Grail, and many other fabulous ancient mysteries deemed forever unanswerable "

When will it appear in <I> Science Bulletin ?

Jun 15, 2015 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

If I were a betting man, I would run this by the bookies. They will take this phony offer to pieces

Jun 15, 2015 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

vvussell, it has appeared many times for over 20 years, under the heading 'Climate Science'

Jun 15, 2015 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

CSI is obviously not made up of open minded scientists. True scientists don't make bets on the results of incoming data. If they did, they would have a conflict of interest with the scientific process which requires maintaining a neutral position when collecting or evaluating data.

Jun 15, 2015 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterSMS

So they are betting that 2015 will be warmer than 1985. 2016 warmer than 1986, 2017 warmer than 1987, etc. It woouldn't get interesting until 2028.

Jun 15, 2015 at 11:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

How unsporting of that old rogue Brute to play the anonymous coward at the expense of the libel bar !

While CSI may blanch at publishing Harry's Theory of Everything, twenty years ago ( Golf Charlie take notice,) The Skeptical Inquirer had the sand to publish my inquiry into Al Gore's innumerate 1992 prediction of a mass extinction by the year 2000.

Jun 15, 2015 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Another hot flush attack at Russell

Jun 15, 2015 at 11:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

This is actually a really nice opportunity for Heartland to show CSI the true meaning of scepticism. Heartland can refuse to take the bet, and explain exactly why, and by so doing truly hand CSI its own arse back on a plate.

Jun 16, 2015 at 12:33 AM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Thanks "supposed" example where they break from "consensus" in how many years...??????
Too funny..
Lets not forget when they sacked their own astronomer for pointing out something they didnt like..which was the last time they tried anything "scientific".
Cue bleating, hand waving and a few ad hominems..and a dash of an appeal to authority..because thats what the troops are taught..
Flipping zombie.. :)

Jun 16, 2015 at 12:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterDrapetomania

shouldnt that be in proportion to the stock each side has?

25K for heartland vs 25M for CSI

Jun 16, 2015 at 12:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterVenusNotWarmerDueToCO2

My first thought was that CSI was offering a bet on the 2015 anomaly, relative to a 30-year baseline. But I believe the Bishop has it right that it's a bet on a 30-year average, because CSI wrote, "If CSI’s prediction proves incorrect, and the 30-year average global temperature does not go up..."

This is obviously a sucker's bet, as (has been pointed out) the 30-year average will go up from last year's if 2015 proves warmer than 1985, which is a virtual certainty no matter one's position on the hiatus/pause/plateau/whatever. Even more so as 1985 had the lowest temperature for its decade (in the GISS series). So an increase in the 30-year mean bears not at all on whether there is a hiatus since ~2000, and even less so on the more important question of whether temperature has been increasing along the lines forecast by the IPCC.

Jun 16, 2015 at 12:58 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Not heard of this grouping before.
A quick Wiki leads to "The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), formerly known as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)..."

Ummmm.....what has an averaged temperature metric of the Earth, howsoever measured, by GISS or others, widely disputed or accepted, got to do with "claims of the paranormal"?


Jun 16, 2015 at 1:06 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

CSI is not CSICOP.

Jun 16, 2015 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid in Cal

Oh, they're skeptical alright. Skeptical that they could win anything but a grotesquely loaded bet. So it's alright.

Jun 16, 2015 at 1:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

CSI is not CSICOP.

Jun 16, 2015 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid in Cal


Jun 16, 2015 at 1:28 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

vvussell, well done for confirming that Al Gore has a track record for being wrong. Why do you believe him now?

Jun 16, 2015 at 1:47 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

A climate bet using temperatures? Who are these people?

Jun 16, 2015 at 2:30 AM | Registered Commentershub

GISS? Why not a specific UAH or RSS series?

I interpret the bet to be based on a RUNNING 30-year mean.

Jun 16, 2015 at 3:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrederick Colbourne

OK They offer you a fake bet ...So grab this time of publicity call their bluff.
1. Point out their fix
2. Offer a more rational unfixed bet
3. with a larger amount by backed by individual skeptic subscriptions at $10 a time, to show we are not BigOil.

Unfortunately the official skeptic movement is now a disgrace.
It got infiltrated taken over by Green religious dogmatists via SGU-podcast a new loud snarly sneering way of doing skepticism. (which BTW split into 2 parts itself - the uber feminsts and anti-uber feminists)

Jun 16, 2015 at 6:13 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The essence of scepticism being that we don't know enough to make any predictions, this is either moronic or devious.
Or perhaps just the the ignorance of not knowing the difference between a sceptic and a denier.

Jun 16, 2015 at 6:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterMuon

The Heartland should propose its own bet along the lines of the expected difference between the average of the satellite data sets and the 90 CMIP5 models, for instance will it be greater or less than the current ~0.4C.

Jun 16, 2015 at 7:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

Isn't the consensus that global temperature should be rising, since atmospheric CO2 has risen significantly in 30 years?
How about a counter proposal, but add the appropriate fraction of a degree, a value consistent with a realistic climate sensitivity?
It isn't the Heartland Institute's position that CO2 has no effect at all.

Jun 16, 2015 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterrotationalfinestructure

@rot It's too easy for a dumbo like me to read that the wrong way around ie "isn't it " instead "It isn't"

I'd say : "Heartland doesn't say that CO2 has no effect at all" .... "it's just not the simplistic linear road to catastrophe that alarmists make out "

@muon "The essence of scepticism being that we don't know enough to make any predictions, this is either moronic or devious."
- It's not that skeptics never make predictions.
No the skeptics are just finding evidence and logic flaws in the CLAIMS by alarmists that they can make super accurate predictions and that shows CATASTROPHE is likely.

The skeptics might say we can run with a model that says "next summer will probably be warmer than next winter". "but anyone saying they can make predictions about the climate in 20 years time based on the levels of CO2.. is very far from having proved their case."

Jun 16, 2015 at 9:14 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

If the annual global temperature (however measured) increased by 0.01C every year for 150 years then headlines would scream "Record global temperature!!" for every single one of those years. And so bloody what! The end temperature would be just 1.5C more. It is incredible, verging on pathetic, that a normally rational organisation like CSI doesn't even understand the sceptical arguments let alone address them. Is a gradual rise in temperature really a catastrophe (and may not be preventable anyway)? What is the appropriate policy response (can trashing the world's economy really be a "solution" - why not adapt)? Aren't there more important problems to throw money at?

Jun 16, 2015 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterDidymous

Only climate alarmists are rich enough through public funding, to make wild gambles.

The rest of us put up with honest jobs and have no gravy train!

Jun 16, 2015 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered Commentercharmingquark

@ bullocky

Choosing an El Nino year to launch the bet is more 'cynical' than 'skeptical'.

I was just going to ask if the timing of the challenge had anything to do with El Nino but you beat me to it!

Jun 16, 2015 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

"I think they are saying that they expect the 30 year mean to be higher each year than any other 30 year mean on record."

It's an odd statistic to pick, and at least initially is biased their way, but it might not work out quite the way they expect in the long run.

They're betting on the 30-year running mean achieving a new maximum in more than 15 out of the next 30 years. For the first 13 years they've got an advantage, since the pre-1998 data would still be working its way through. But after that, and assuming the pause continued, the odds would drop dramatically. If there's no trend, then each year has a 1/n chance of being the top temperature in the past n years. If there's been no trend in annual temperatures for 30 years (which would start in 2028) then there will be no trend in the 30-year running mean from that point on. Worse, they're correlated. If the rise does not continue, then the peak would occur for the interval 1998-2028, it would be 50:50 the year after, and then they'd be virtually certain to lose every year after that.

So the odds are actually a lot closer to even than you might think, even now. But of course, since they've declared their intention to repeat the challenge every year for the next 30 years, an even better strategy would be to wait until 2028 and *then* start taking them up on their bets. You would get 18 years with the odds heavily in your favour, at around £25k a year. That's about half a million in total. I bet the progressive subscribers to CSI would be soooo pleased...

Jun 16, 2015 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

I think Nullius in Verba has hit upon the correct strategy. Since 1999 was 0.21 degC cooler than 1998 (according to GISS, 2029 would have to be at least 0.21 degC warmer than 2028 for CSI to win the bet that year. Possible, but not very likely. Other good years to take the bet would be 2018 (drop of 0.12 degC from 1988 to 1989) and 2021 (drop of 0.19 degC from 1991 to 1992)

Jun 16, 2015 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hope

Hasn’t El Niño been predicted for a few years, now, only to stubbornly refuse to appear?

How will the red faces be covered should it again fail to appear, this year?

Jun 16, 2015 at 10:31 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

But if it's based on Giss? The George Orwell quote comes to mind. " who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past". I think Golf Charlie was making this point upthread

Jun 16, 2015 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterSankara

''whether the Earth’s climate will set a new record high temperature this year.

I said at the start of the year that no matter what the reality this year would set a 'record high temperature' with Paris coming up it simply has to . And there are plenty of those willing to make sure it does .

Jun 16, 2015 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered Commenterknr


Russel, have a long look at that and have a think about what it's showing us.

A long slow recovery from the little ice age, with no increase in slope since the 'industrialisation' of the world in the 50's, with little recent increase despite large increases in CO2 concentration..

Absolutely nothing to worry about.

Jun 16, 2015 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

They seem to have missed the point that warming does not a priori mean manmade warming. If there is no significant difference in general warming from early 20th century then it cannot be assumed to be manmade and any hiatus means that the presumed but so far unquantifiable manmade warming cannot be dominant.

So to use their own preferred phrase in criticising Inhofe (of all people) - 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence'. Reliance on blatantly inadequate models, ignoring the many and manifold observations that disagree with the hypothesis and using argument from authority does not constitute evidence at all, never mind extraordinary evidence. Neither is it up to skeptics to prove why the manmade signal is not there or why so many over-qualified dolts are incapable of seeing that very obvious fact.

Absent such fully-justified scepticism of climate science then the CSI cannot be described as real skeptics and I resent that they have co-opted the word as if it belonged to them and no-one else.

Jun 16, 2015 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

A climate bet using temperatures? Who are these people?

Jun 16, 2015 at 2:30 AM | Registered Commentershub

And if they lost the bet would they refuse to pay, or simply adjust the amount down in their favour?

Jun 16, 2015 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Are they going to reissue the challenge as whether 2015 will be warmer than 1985 then? as that is obviously much easier to understand than the tortured English they used.

Jun 16, 2015 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

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