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Global warming debate prompts $3,700 bet

Global warming debate prompts $3,700 bet
Inuit seal hunter Dines Mikaelsen strokes a dead seal atop a melting iceberg near Ammassalik Island, Greenland in July 2007. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore said Thursday Dec. 13, 2007, the United States is "principally responsible" for blocking progress at the U.N. climate conference in Bali, and European nations threatened to boycott U.S.-led climate talks next month unless Washington compromises on emissions reductions. Gore urged delegates at the conference to take urgent action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. (AP Photo/John McConnico, File)
One of my favorite game shows to watch while growing up was Concentration (not the original, but more the knock-offs in the late 70s and 80s).

For those that don’t remember or have the Game Show Network (is it even on there anymore?) it was memory game where you had, say, 30 squares on a game board, and each board had 15 hidden images. You would have to "open" a square, two at a time, to try and find the matching images. (Here is a rough online version to give the idea.)

Each time you were successful, the squares would be erased from the board and reveal part of a visual word puzzle like an a head of lettuce with "-tuce" after it, and then maybe a bingo card with an arrow pointing at the center space, followed by a church dome, and then an engagement ring and the puzzle would be "Let Free Dome Ring"

The more squares you removed, more of the puzzle is revealed. The first player to guess the word puzzle was declared the winner, and then got some fabulous prize like a 7 day, 6 night stay in Cabo San Lucas, spelled out by a man with a booming TV game show voice.

So what does this have to do with the headline to this story, promising some story about a global warming bet? I'm going to do the impossible: Tie global warming into historical game shows.

First up, the bet.

On May 1, a group of scientists published a study in Nature magazine that their data suggests the planet is about to go into a period of roughly 10 years where the average global temperature will halt its recent gradual climb upward and might actually cool a bit.

Their reasoning, in my attempt to make this into a way-too-simplified nutshell to do it true justice, is that some ocean currents in the Northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans will be moving into a cooler phase and, as their summary says:

"Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming."

(Anthropogenic warming is a fancy scientific term for human-caused warming)

Note the key word there is "temporarily" -- they are not advocating that global warming is dead, it just might "take a break".

But on the flip side, scientists at realclimate.org -- a site dedicated to climate science -- came out and disputed the findings. Matter of fact, they are so sure that overall global temperatures will continue to climb over the next 10 years, that they have said they will wager 2500 Euros (about $3,700 U.S. Dollars today).

(I don't know if the folks who wrote the original article ever accepted the bet.)

There's more information on the whole bet and even more links at this link from the Yale Climate Media Forum.

So, how does this tie into Concentration?

This intense debate even over one small facet of the global climate shows just how challenging the answer really is.

Think of the entire answer book to the global climate -- what makes it work, where we've been, and what the future lies -- is behind a really big Concentration board -- bigger than Bill Gates' home. Bigger than Rhode Island. Even bigger than Lake Washington.

Now, imagine millions to billions of squares on this board. (Hope the sales staff sold enough commercials to fill the time allotment for this game). The planet has been around for 4.5 billion years, and humans have only had the technology to accurately record the weather and climate for a tiny sliver of that time, leaving a vast majority of squares still on the board.

But as climate scientists go forward and learn more, we slowly remove some of those squares off the big board.

Thus, we're starting to reveal more and more secrets about global climate, but there arestill enough "boxes on the board" that there is great debate over we are heading. Put another way, with global warming, we might have a part of an image revealed -- but is it a ring? Or maybe it's a hula hoop? Is it maybe a letter "o" or is it just partial "b" or "p"? Without knowing the exact answer, you can debate until the cows come home over what each image is.

Overall, there is quite a bit of data to suggest the planet is, on average, heating up and will continue to do. The causes of that -- natural, manmade, or both? -- are still "hotly" debated. (Oh, quit your groaning :) ) But at least you now hopefully have a better grasp of the complexity of the debate.