I've since found a smattering of information on this topic elsewhere, although not as much as I'd expect given the large amount of information on on prediction (or betting) markets for things like elections.
Some resources are:
- a website on climate change betting by James Annan, a scientist involved in climate prediction. His blog has some interesting stuff too.
- There's an article in Reason Magazine.
- Wandering a bit off-topic but a conceptually similar operational hurricane futures market allows meteorology researchers and students to invest real money ($5.00 - $500.00) in securities whose payoffs depend on where a given hurricane makes its first landfall. The prices of these securities is then used to forecast where a hurricane will actually land.
- The New York Times had a very readable article a couple of months ago on prediction markets.
Prediction markets have already been used in a variety of contexts with remarkable success. For example, prices of economic derivatives predict economic variables better than professional economists; prices in Iowa political markets are typically more accurate than the polls in forecasting elections; and prediction markets at Hewlett-Packard Labs beat official forecasts of printer sales most of the time.
Prediction markets reflect an old thought that underlies the price system: Information is widely dispersed in society, and it is highly desirable to find a mechanism to collect and aggregate that information. These markets work for several reasons: First, almost anyone can participate. Second, people think hard when they have to back up their predictions with money; buy the right presidential contract and you win, buy the wrong one and you lose. Third, the profit motive encourages people to look for better information.
I'll keep following this theme on the blog. It seems to me that even a small betting market on long term temperatures (or associated climatic changes) could be a very cheap way to improve our understanding of climate change risks.