01 June 2011

The Boudreaux Bet

Don Boudreaux and I are narrowing in on the terms of our bet.  Here is the email I just sent to him in response to his acceptance of the terms that I had offered:

Many thanks ... and just to be clear from my end.

1. The over/under for the bet is 4,022 deaths due to tornadoes, hurricanes and floods in the United States between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2030.
2, If that number is not reached by January 1, 2031, I lose.
3. If that number is reached before January 1, 2031, you lose.
4. The dataset used is the official NWS loss record kept here:
5. If I win you will make a donation to the American Red Cross
6. If you win I will make a donation to an economics program of your choice.
7. Also, if I win you'll write an op-ed explaining the bet and why you lost (and of course, I am willing to do the same)

The only issue left to settle is the amount of the wager.  I see from your blog that you want to put an upper limit, which of course makes good sense.  I also recognize that you may wish to rope in a few others on this bet ;-)  Let me know how you'd like to proceed, I am happy to leave the amount bet open for a bit if that would be of any use, just let me know.

I am very glad that you have offered this opportunity as it means that some money (eventually) will go to some worthwhile causes and to the extent that it raises awareness of the risks of extreme events for loss of human life, there will be no losers here. For my part, I certainly hope that the numbers turn out in your favor.

I'll post this up on my blog as a record, and will revisit the issue (probably at most) yearly.  Perhaps we might even write something jointly along the way.

Finally, nice to meet you and I look forward to the collaboration.

All best,



  1. Roger: given it's all for a good cause, i suppose you shouldn't feel ashamed at taking his money, but gosh, this is the grand daddy of all sucker-bets.

    Want to lay off some action on reaching the 4000-odd number by 2025? That, IMO, would be a fairer wager.

  2. All things being equal, I would expect Roger to win this bet handily. Populations will continue to rise and people will continue to seek to build where the risks are high.

    But the question is will adaptation alter the curve. We are close to the day when almost everyone will get real-time warnings on their GPS enabled phones with location-specific instructions on what to do. If federal and state governments also take steps to improve building codes and to discourage building on coasts and flood plains then we might be pleasantly surprised. Furthermore, the bet is limited to the U.S. where we have the wherewithal and track record to improve on safety. That all accrues to Boudreaux's favor.

    So I'm not sure who to bet on.

  3. -2-Jim Ogden

    If disaster deaths decrease over the next 20 years due to actions by federal and state governments, then Boudreaux might win the bet but lose the argument ;-)

    But let's hope that is the case!

  4. Good point. Although he doesn't explicity say so, Boudreaux seems to be arguing that adaptation through technology alone will bring deaths down (unlikely, I think). But his main issue is with those who claim attribution due to AGW. Also, he doesn't deny that AGW may lead to more extreme weather in the future. You guys seem to agree an quite a bit. I don't think he expected to draw you into the bet.