Watching the World Go Bye

Eliot Jacobson's Collapse of Everything Blog

Climate Change

Betting on the End of the World

Okay, the ‘world’ will go on. Planet X is not going to come crashing into Earth anytime soon, scattering debris into a new asteroid belt. And yes, eventually the planet will heal itself of the human virus (Homo Ecophagus), and life will go on in some form after humans have consumated their planetary extinction event. I’m using ‘end of the world’ in the most well-understood context for climate change, namely, the Paris limit of 1.5°C and the already baked-in massive heating beyond that limit.

As someone with a history in the casino industry, a quick review of gambling may be helpful. Offering a bet means this: definining an event, researching the odds, giving odds for the event that gives the house the edge, banking wagers, having the event reconciled, and finally, making good on the winning wagers. Of course, the “Climate Casino” is not a real casino. All wagers here are “fake bets” mostly taken and reconciled via Twitter (X) polling. But the events are real. The odds are real. I am doing my best to create wagers where the Climate Casino has an edge and makes a fake-profit by having the maximum number of folks take the wrong side of the wager.

And so, back to the Paris limit and the end of the world. The Paris limit of 1.5°C is not the end of the world. While 2.0°C is getting closer to total annihilation, it is not quite there. However, beyond 2.0°C, tipping points and feedback loops will make the future catastrophically non-linear. AMOC, Thwaites, permafrost melt, methane release, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification and deoxygentation, fires, floods, heatwaves, droughts, disease, famine, all of these events will come to pass (and many more) with absolute certainty above 2.0°C.

If you have been paying attention, you might think we have already breached the Paris limit, as 2023’s global mean surface temperature (GMST) has been widely documented to have been over 1.5°C. But, No. The planet has not yet breached Paris. As shown in this post, the long-term average is currently 1.38°C.

And as hard as it might be to accept that we have not yet breached Paris, it’s important to remember that 2023 was just one year, with a medium-strong El Niño forcing temperatures higher. Here in early June, 2024, we’re on track to at least match 2023’s record, with the average for the first five months, January-May, at 1.64°C over the pre-industrial baseline.

For reference, here’s a graph of the running 365-day GMST, from 1941 to the present day showing an average of 1.63°C over the last 365 days (I am using Copernicus ERA5 data, and all the analysis I present is based on this data):

 

On to fake-bets about the end of the world!

Suppose you wanted to make a simple over/under fake-bet with someone about the GMST for 2024. Well, this year is already underway and we know a lot about it. El Niño is transitioning to La Niña. We can expect some cooling by the end of the year but the year started out very hot. The climate casino would then set its line for the entire year, knowing most folks will take the “over” while most climate scientists think the “under” is a lock. That’s the kind of fake-bet I already offered for this year, which you can find under the Climate Casino tab. And yes, the Climate Casino expects to win a lot of fake-money on the two over/under fake-bets it offered for 2024.

What about 2025? We don’t know much about that year yet, but that doesn’t mean the Climate Casino can’t set an over/under line for 2025. To create the over/under line, I used the analysis I presented in this post. To be more precise, I used my own long-term average of 1.38°C as a starting point. As shown in that article, global temperatures are currently increasing at 0.30°C/decade, with the rate of warming increasing by 0.05°C per decade. This is accelerated warming and is widely accepted among climate scientists. I then used the rate of accelerated warming I computed to forecast into the future.

Using the 2023 baseline of 1.38°C and accelerated warming, and with no other information, my over/under for 2025 is 1.44°C. That is, I think there is a 50% chance that the GMST for 2025 will be above 1.44°C, and a 50% chance the GMST will be below 1.44°C. The Climate Casino gets the edge by grouping the actual predicted value of 1.44°C with the under bet, hoping that most will take the over. That is, the statistically most likely outcome is grouped with the under bet.

I am quite sure that most readers think that 2025 will be above 1.44°C. I don’t share their confidence. For that reason, I offered a “fake-bet” on Twitter with this line and was overjoyed by the final results:

To double-check my intution, I asked climate scientist Zeke Hausfather which side he would take. Here is his response:

Earth is heating up really f&%king fast and horrible things are going to happen in the not-too-distant future (and are already happening in some regions). But for right now, the exhuberance I witness daily for near-term doom is leading a lot of folks to bet the over. And the Climate Casino wants to fake-capitalize on this exhuberance.

By using similar analysis, I can give over/under lines for the years 2025-2050. Here is a graphic that gives all the lines for over/under fake bets through 2050:

For example, a reasonable fake wager could be made on the GMST for the year 2035, with an over/under of 1.78°C. Likewise, 2027 is the first year with an over/under above 1.50°C and 2041 is the first year with an over/under above 2.0°C. The Climate Casino would get the edge by lumping the actual prediction with the under bet while expecting most fake-bettors to take the over.

These numbers are the betting lines that are vaild today. Just like betting on sports or Academy Awards, as more information comes to light, these numbers will be updated. But, today, if you want to make a fake-bet on a year’s GMST with a friend, colleague, family member, Twitter idiot denier, x-porn star or climate scientist, these are the 50/50 over/under lines the Climate Casino is offering.

And to be clear, this analysis shows the Paris limit of 1.5°C will officially be broken in 2027, and 2.0°C will be done and dusted in 2041. It shows nearly 2.4°C by 2050, with 2.0°C solidly in the rear-view mirror. These 50/50 predictions are f&%king nuts. The end of everything is no longer hyperbole. It is odds-on by 2050.

Let this sink in: we’re betting on the end of the world and the smart money is that it really is the end of the world.

Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D.

Retired professor of mathematics and computer science, retired casino consultant, now a full time volunteer, husband and grandfather. Know-it-all doomer. Born in the year 316 ppm CO2.

One thought on “Betting on the End of the World

  • 1

    One often mentioned, (see: leon simmons), wrench in the works, is the falling aerosol concentrations from “clean” shipping. We are not done with that yet, I’m taking the over.✌️

    Reply

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