Specifically, I am betting that 10 years into the future, the five indices of global human welfare given below will show improvement. You may pick any metric from each of the five indices, and you will win the bet if ANY of the five indicators shows a global negative trend over the 10-year life of the bet.
Food (per capita average calorie intake, percent or absolute number of malnourished, percent or absolute number of people underweight). Data Source: United Nations FAO
Water (number of people without access to clean water, percent of people without access to clean water, etc.). Data Source: United Nations Millennium Indicators per UNICEF - WHO
Health (life expectancy at birth, childhood immunization rates, infant mortality rates, life expectancy after age 30) Data source: United Nations or U.S. Census Bureau
Education and Quality of Life: universal primary school education, adult literacy, percent of people with access to radio/TV/phone, parity of female to males in education, or partity of female-to-male wages. Data source: UN Development Indicators per UNESCO
** Energy: That the amount of energy required to produce a $1 worth of GDP will decline (this is a universal way to measure the price of energy). Data source: UN Millennium Indicators per World Bank.
Note that all of these indices are direct measures of human welfare. While I believe human welfare will improve, I also believe we will lose both wild places and wild creatures for the next 50 to 75 years as forests are fragmented, coastal and pelagic systems are over fished, reef systems are destroyed, wetlands are drained, and market hunting continues apace in some parts of the developing world. To put it another way, I believe that the human condition will generally improve for the next 10 years (and for the 50 years after that) while many overall negative trends for wild places and wildlife will continue apace. In short, I believe the history of the last 500 years will continue for the next 10 years and the next 50 years after that. This bet is for a 10-year period; we can continue the bet after that if the other bettor so desires.
Primary driver is my belief in the imminence of 'Hubbert's Peak' (oil production). This will affect agriculture (increasingly industrial), pharmaceutical production, transportation of food and other essentials, and general increasing dependence on non-human calories in global societies.
The metrics I select are:
"Absolute number of malnourished"
"number of people without access to clean water"
"life expectancy at birth"
"adult literacy" (need to clarify % or gross#)
The energy metric is a loaded question, as a severe energy shortfall will force more human calories to be used per $ of GDP. I'd rather use the per capita use of non-human calories. This would indicate whether life was 'easier' or if more sweat was required during life.
The metrics we agree to are as follows:
1. Absolute number of malnourished children. Source: UNICEF data as at http://www.childinfo.org/eddb/malnutrition/
2. Number of people without access to clean water as determined by U.N. Millennium Indicators at http://millenniumindicators.un.org/unsd/mi/mi_goals.asp per UNICEF - WHO
3. Average life expectancy at birth as determined by United Nations Stats as at http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/social/health.htm
4. Literacy of those aged 15-24 as determined by U.N. Millennium Indicators at http://millenniumindicators.un.org/unsd/mi/mi_worldregn.asp
5. The amount of energy required to produce a $1 worth of GDP (Burns says it will decline). Data source: UN Millennium Indicators per World Bank.