David Vogel’s pretty good with numbers. His aptitude with them made him annoyingly good at helping Netflix not classify “Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman” as a slasher flick, or suggest “Rugrats” to fans of the Child’s Play series. So annoyingly good that it led Quantitative Investment Management to hire him to run hedge-fund money, at which he has also proven annoyingly good, with his Voloridge Investment Management enjoying three-year annualized returns in the neighborhood of 40%. You’d think these two hobbies would keep him sufficiently busy, but no: He’s also taken it upon himself to prove that climate change is a real thing that’s really caused by humans using real numbers, which he has now done to his own satisfaction.
The numbers were indisputable, he said. Humans were causing the climate to change.
“I wasn’t actually sure about climate change until I did the math myself,” he said. “I realized this isn’t a soft science. This is black and white.”
As it turns out, this isn’t entirely an academic question to Vogel. While he may think that a return to a hunter-gatherer ethos is good as a strategy for running a hedge fund, he does not particularly want to see a return to it on a society-wide scale on account of climate change, especially since his particular tribe’s habitat—Jupiter, Florida—is likely to become among the many Atlantis-like artificial reefs at the rate we’re going.
The 44-year-old last week took his family and firm and fled Jupiter, Florida, as Hurricane Irma bore down. For a week, he and his staff of several dozen employees holed up in a hotel in New York, not far from Columbus Circle, anticipating the devastation that awaited their return….
“To make people listen, sometimes you have to put it in economic terms,” Vogel said in an interview at Bloomberg offices in New York on Sept. 12. “If there was no rule about throwing trash in a landfill, you’d throw it in a neighbor’s yard. That’s what this is, people just throwing out trash. And it’s causing hundreds of billions in damage….”
He’s determined to get his message that climate change is real and man made but not unsolvable to a public that so far has been reluctant to listen. And his hope is that numbers will be more effective than words.