Connect to share and comment

Polar bears face stark odds, says bookmaker Paddy Power PLC

Paddy Power PLC bets against polar bears, white Christmas.

A male polar bear carries the head of a polar bear cub it killed and cannibalized in an area about 186 miles north of the Canadian town of Churchill on Nov. 20, 2009. Climate change has turned some polar bears into cannibals as global warming melts their Arctic ice hunting grounds, reducing the polar bear population, according to a U.S.-led global scientific study on the impacts of climate change. (Iain D. Williams/Reuters)

DUBLIN, Ireland ― Whatever the outcome of the Copenhagen climate conference, Ireland’s largest bookmaker is seeking to cash in on the effects of global warming.

Paddy Power PLC is offering odds that the global polar bear population will fall in the next two years, and that there will not be a white Christmas in Dublin — or in any other city in western Europe or America — this year.

“With the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen we thought the future polar bear population was a kind of newsworthy bet,” explained spokesman Paddy Power, son of the company’s founder. “We are next going to offer odds on carbon dioxide emissions.”

The World Wildlife Fund currently estimates that there are 22,000 polar bears in the world and that the numbers will decline because of the ice cover they need to survive will melt earlier in the year.

The bookmaker is offering odds of 13/8 that the polar bear population will fall to between 15,000 and 20,000 by the end of 2011.

In this Irish version of a bear market, climate change pessimists can get 8/1 that the number will actually drop below 15,000. “We have taken a handful of bets on line already,” said Power. “No one has bet on an increase.”

Speculating on a snowy Christmas in Dublin has become an annual event in Ireland, and a regular source of profit for the bookmakers.

“The definition of a white Christmas is a millimeter of snow at Dublin airport, like the frosting on your refrigerator,” explained Power, whose company has already taken €10,000 ($14,500) in small bets of snow falling on Dec. 25.

Ireland’s last official white Christmas was in 2004 and the prospect of snow on any given Christmas Day is usually pretty remote because of the warming influence of the Atlantic Ocean.
However this year it might not be a bad bet. The odds have shortened to 11/4 due to a cold air mass approaching Ireland from Russia.

Power also expects a flurry of new bets following the widely reported prediction on Monday by an amateur meteorologist that there will be unusually cold weather this winter.