Richard Tol

Richard Tol

Credentials

  • M.Sc. Econometrics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 1992 [1]
  • Ph.D. Economics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 1997 [1]

Background

Professor Richard Tol is an economist, academic and an advisor to the climate denial organisation the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Tol claims to specialise in assessing the economic implications of climate change impacts and policy approaches. His analysis suggests economic impacts from climate change are negligible and possibly beneficial, at least until the latter part of the 21st century.

Tol has also worked closely with the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a US-registered think tank founded by Danish political scientist Dr Bjorn Lomborg. Tol is a Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Sussex, and a Professor at the Institute for Environmental Studies at VU University Amsterdam.

Tol has been involved in writing United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports in various capacities as an author (contributing, lead, principal, and convening) for the working groups looking at the physical science, the impacts and the ways to mitigate climate change.  [1] , [2] , [3]

Richard Tol was previously a research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin, the Michael Otto Professor of Sustainability and Global Change at Hamburg University and an Adjunct Professor, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.” [1]

According to his own Twitter biography, Richard Tol is the “scholar most-cited by Stern Review.” One profile of Tol describes him as a “Climate economist, unafraid to fight.” [4] , [5]

Since about June 2013, Tol has been engaged in a public fight with the authors of a popular scientific journal paper which found that 97 per cent of climate change studies carried out since 1991 agreed that global warming was mostly caused by human activity.

Tol nevertheless agrees a scientific consensus on global warming exists, but argues over the methodology used to arrive at the 97% figure.

Stance on Climate Change

Humans are a tough and adaptable species. People live on the equator and in the Arctic, in the desert and in the rainforest. We survived ice ages with primitive technologies. The idea that climate change poses an existential threat to humankind is laughable.” [6]

From a selfish point of view I’d put my money into adaptation. We can adapt without having to seek cooperation from India and China. We would have much greater control over it.” [2]

Key Quotes

October, 2016

Writing in a working paper, Tol announces that a carbon tax is all that we need to combat climate change: [28]

“[C]limate change is a relatively small problem that can easily be solved: We just need a modest carbon tax.”

”[…] First-best climate policy is simple: A uniform carbon tax, rising steadily over time, is all we need.”

August, 2014

It is pretty damn obvious that there are positive impacts of climate change, even though we are not always allowed to talk about them.” [10]

January, 2009

The impact of climate change is relatively small. The average impact on welfare is equivalent to losing a few per cent of income. That is, the impact of a century worth of climate change is comparable to the impact of one or two years of economic growth.” [8]

Key Deeds

October, 2016

Richard Tol authored a new paper titled “The Structure of the Climate Debate” which he claimed, on Twitter, “sailed through peer review.” [26], [27]

View the complete PDF for the working paper of “Structure of the Climate Debate” here. [28]

My paper on the structure of the climate debate just sailed through peer review (tweet)

The Abstract for the paper reads:

“First-best climate policy is a uniform carbon tax which gradually rises over time. Civil servants have complicated climate policy to expand bureaucracies, politicians to create rents. Environmentalists have exaggerated climate change to gain influence, other activists have joined the climate bandwagon. Opponents to climate policy have attacked the weaknesses in climate research. The climate debate is convoluted and polarized as a result, and climate policy complex. Climate policy should become easier and more rational as the Paris Agreement has shifted climate policy back towards national governments. Changing political priorities, austerity, and a maturing bureaucracy should lead to a more constructive climate debate.” [28]

Writing in the working paper, Tol announces that a carbon tax is all that we need to combat climate change: [28]

“[C]limate change is a relatively small problem that can easily be solved: We just need a modest carbon tax.”

”[…] First-best climate policy is simple: A uniform carbon tax, rising steadily over time, is all we need.”

Tol's paper was accepted to the journal Energy Policy on January 5, 2017 and later published online on January 11, 2017. [29]

May 2, 2016

Richard Tol was listed among “Key Scientists” appearing in Marc Morano's movie, Climate Hustle. The full list included the following: [12]

Marc Morano's Climate Hustle was released in U.S. theatres on May 2, 2016. Bill Nye described it as  “not in our national interest and the world’s interest.” [18]

The film was produced by the Committee for Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and CDRCommunications. As noted at Desmog's project, ClimateHustler.org,  CFACT has received funding from ExxonMobil, Chevron, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars from foundations associated with Richard Mellon ScaifeCFACT has also received at least $7.8 million in “dark money” through DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund[19][20]

CDR Communications was behind the 2010 video by the Cornwall Alliance titled Resisting the Green Dragon, which claimed environmentalism was a “false religion” and a “global government” power grab. Chris Rogers of CDR Communictions is also chairman of The James Partnership, the umbrella arm that includes the Cornwall Alliance as one of its projects and pays the salary of Calvin Beisner, Cornwall’s founder and spokesperson. [21]

    Climate Hustle initially premiered on December 7, 2015 in Paris, France during the COP21 United Nations summit on climate change[22], [23]

    We are putting together what I think is the most comprehensive, unique, entertaining and humorous climate documentary that has ever been done or attempted,” Morano had said before the film was released. [24]

    The reason that this is a unique film,” Morano has said, “is that we are going for a pop culture-friendly… sarcastic approach and we actually give both sides in this movie.” [24]

    In an interview with Ezra Levant, Morano said:

    I am not interviewing a lot of the main climate sceptical scientists because I feel like they have been interviewed by many other people and their stories have been told. I am trying to find another layer of scientist whose stories have not been out there yet. You will see a lot of new names in this.” [24]

    See a preview of the film below:

    At the Paris premier of the film, reporters from Desmog and the Irish Times were denied entrance after having their RSVPs accepted days earlier. [25]

    April, 2016

    Richard Tol was one of several witnesses sponsored by Peabody Energy, fighting a legal case on Minnesota's Social Cost of Carbon (SCC). Peabody Energy's list of skeptical scientists included the following: [13]

    DeSmog reviewed the case findings, and reported how the arguments presented by Peabody were rejected by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Some of Peabody's central “scientific” arguments, as commented on by The ALJ in findings documents, were as follows: [14]

    p.18 “Peabody asserted that significant climate change is not occurring or, to the extent climate change is occurring, it is not due to anthropogenic causes. Furthermore, Peabody insisted that any current warming and increased CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere are beneficial. Based on its position on climate change, Peabody maintained that the externality value of CO2 would most accurately be set at or below zero.…”

    p.31 “The Administrative Law Judge concludes that Peabody Energy has failed to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that climate change is not occurring or, to the extent climate change is occurring, the warming and increased CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere are beneficial.” 

    The Judge ruled unambiguously against Peabody, as reported Bloomberg BNA. [15] The Guardian also suggested a number of reasons that Peabody Energy lost the case, including Richard Lindzen's own admission that the case hinged on ignoring the IPCC expert consensus, and instead listening to contrarian science: [16]

    “All of this [opposition] testimony is flawed to the extent it simply relies on … predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change […] today the best evidence indicates that … a much lower climate sensitivity value of 1°C or 1.5°C is correct […]” [16]

    “Peabody’s scientists made errors that were easy to identify and point out to the Judge. Furthermore, the Judge was smart, quickly able to see through nonsense non-science,” The Guardian reports. “For those of you that read the report, you’ll notice that the Peabody side made claims about the natural variability of Earth’s climate, about Earth temperature changes, and about extreme weather events.” [17]

    Some notable judicial conclusions were as follows, reports The Guardian[17]

    “22. The Administrative Law Judge concludes that Peabody failed to demonstrate that an equilibrium climate sensitivity of 1 or 1.5°C is correct.”

    “23. The Administrative Law Judge concludes that the climate sensitivity is reasonably considered to be in the 2-4.5°C range.”

    “47. The Administrative Law Judge concludes that Peabody failed to demonstrate that the relied upon process is neither peer-reviewed nor transparent.” [17]

    December 7, 2015

    Richard Tol appears as a “Key Scientist” in Marc Morano’s documentary film, Climate Hustle, which debuted on December 7, 2015, in Paris, France during the COP21 United Nations summit on climate change. [12] The film chiefly showcases Morano's personality, a range of discredited scientists, and no new factual information about climate change.

    Other notable “Key Scientists” featured in Climate Hustle include: [12]

    March 2015

    Tol launches a further attack on a paper by John Cook, climate change communications fellow at the University of Queensland, which appeared in the journal Environmental Research Letters and found that 97 per cent of scientific research published on global warming endorsed the view that it was primarily caused by humans. Writing in The Australian newspaper Tol repeated points previously debunked by Cook and his fellow authors.  

    Tol claimed:

    If you want to believe climate researchers are incompetent, biased and secretive, Cook’s paper is an excellent case in point.

    In a response, also published in The Australian, Cook wrote: 

    Every criticism of our research has avoided the fact that the actual scientists who authored the scientific papers independently confirmed the 97 per cent consensus. This includes a piece in these pages by Richard Tol. He attacks our research using analysis that has been shown to be flawed, as explained shortly; and while arguing against our abstract ratings, his critique has no rebuttal to the self-ratings that also found 97 per cent agreement. An obsession with minutiae that do not affect the final result while ignoring the broader picture is common by those denying the consensus on climate change.

    March 2015

    From mid 2014 until January 2015, Tol issued a series of complaints against UK-based newspaper The Guardian over six stories which featured him. Tol initially referred his complaints to the UK's Press Complaints Commission, but over the course of the complaints being dealt with, the PCC was disbanded to be replaced by a new body.

    In evidence given to the US House Science Committee in May 2014, Told claimed that “staff of the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Guardian now routinely tell lies about me and my work”. Tol's reference to the LSE relates to a public row Tol had been engaged in with Bob Ward, the communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

    Ward had published some of his criticisms of Tol's work in The Guardian.  Other Guardian bloggers, including scientists John Abraham, Skeptical Science blogger Dana Nuccitelli and DeSmogBlog contributor Graham Readfearn had also written articles critical of Tol or his work.

    The Guardian launched an internal inuiry to deal with Tol's complaints about the six stories and published its findings in March 2015. The Guardian rejected all Tol's complaints in relation to five of the stories, but said that the word “riddled” should be replaced with the words “a number of” in one of the stories. After the finding, Tol continued to describe The Guardian as conducting a “smear campaign”.

    July 9, 2014

    Tol delivers a speech at an event held organised by UK climate denial group Repeal the Act and held in a room at the UK's House of Commons thanks to support from Northern Ireland MP Sammy Wilson, who does not accept that human activities can change the climate.

    The meeting was attended by a number of climate sceptic MPs and figures, including independent weather “forecaster” Piers Corbyn, who also believes the science linking CO2 to climate change is “delusional nonsense”.

    A report from the meeting, published on DeSmogBlog, found Tol accepted as “fair” a suggestion that rising sea levels might be mainly driven by the sun or natural processes.

    June, 2014

    The journal Energy Policy publishes a paper from Richard Tol attacking a finding that 97 per cent of climate change studies agreed global warming was mostly human caused. Tol claimed the finding, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters (ERL), “does not stand”.

    A DeSmogBlog report found that Tol had first pledged to attack the ERL paper almost a year earlier. His paper was rejected by at least three journals, including ERL, where Tol sent several drafts of his paper before it was finally rejected.

    Reviewers who saw earlier drafts said Tol had identified “no serious flaws” in the ERL paper and made some claims that were “not supported by the author’s analyses”.

    The original authors, led by John Cook, of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and founder of the Skeptical Science website, analysed Tol's paper and said they had found he had made 24 errors.

    The authors pointed out that Tol agreed that a scientific consensus on the cause of climate change existed and that when correcting Tol's alleged error, his own analysis provided an almost identical percentage (97.2 per cent) to their own.

    May 2014

    Two academic journals issue corrections to two papers by Tol which had both argued that global economic impacts from climate change would be positive if warming remained at around 1C, with longer term economic impacts of warming also being low. 

    In the Spring 2009 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Tol wrote that “gremlins intervened in the preparation of my paper”. Retraction Watch reported how Tol had dropped minus signs from some of his analysis of other papers referenced in his original.

    Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University, analysed Tol's “gremlins” for the Washington Post and found further issues, in particular with the conclusions Tol had drawn from his own work.

    Both studies helped shape the conclusions of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Working Group Two chapter covering economic impacts of climate change.

    Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, wrote in The Guardian that a sentence in that chapter suggesting climate change could be “beneficial” under moderate warming had been dropped becuase it had been based on “faulty data” from studies by Tol.

    May, 2014

    Tol appears as a witness on a Republican-controlled House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing to “evaluate” the processes behind the IPCC's fifth round of reports into the science and impacts of climate change.

    In his written evidence, Tol alleged that IPCC authors were “selected on concern as well as competence” and that the reports suffered from an “alarmist bias”. Tol also claimed that The Guardian newspaper “routinely tell lies about me and my work” - an attack which appeared to be based on a number of articles the newspaper had published critical of Tol's work.

    When giving oral evidence, Tol also attacked research which had found that 97 per cent of science papers published since 1991 agreed that humans were a main cause of global warming.  Tol said:

    The 97 per cent estimate is bandied about by almost everybody. I had a close look at what this study really did and as far as I can see the study just crumbles when you touch it. None of the statements in the papers is supported by any data that is actually in the papers. It is pretty clear that most of the science agrees that climate change is real and most likely human made, but this 97 per cent is essentially pulled from thin air – it’s not based on any credible research whatsoever.

    April, 2014

    Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, writes a detailed analysis of Tol's published work relating to the economic impacts of climate change. Ward identifies a number of errors which had the effect of lowering the economic costs of climate change in two of Tol's journal papers.

    In an article in the UK newspaper The Mail on Sunday, Tol accused Ward of conducting a “smear campaign” against him.

    March, 2014

    It is revealed that Richard Tol had, the previous September, withdrawn as a co-author of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “Summary for Policymakers” report after accusing the group of being too alarmist.

    March 18, 2013

    Richard Tol publishes an article in the Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control titled, “Targets for global climate policy: An overview,” shared by Tol and Bjørn Lomborg on Anthony WattsWatts Up With That? webpage. Tol’s piece is considered by some “as a definitive summary of what economics has to say about climate change.” [9]

    The article became “a central building block” in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 Fifth Assessment Report, Chapter 10, Working Group 2 report, “with some of its numbers appearing in the Working Group 2 Summary for Policymakers.” [9]

    October, 2011

    Economist Frank Ackerman co-authors a working paper published by his employer the Stockholm Environment Institute, an independent environmental research institute funded by the Swedish Government, analysing and criticising aspects of a economic model co-developed by Richard Tol.

    The working paper is published the following year in the journal Ecological Economics. The journal also publishes a response from Tol.

    Tol goes to extreme lengths to have the working paper and, later, the peer reviewed paper, withdrawn.  Tol writes to Ackerman's employers (SEI) and when Ackerman moves jobs, Tol writes to his new employer.

    At a dedicated webpage covering the Tol Controversy, Ackerman details how Tol also wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Stockholm University, the Swedish Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Swedish Minister of Environment, and the Minister of Education.

    In some letters, Tol accuses Ackerman of “libel” and “defamation”. Despite Tol's extensive complaints, no actual legal action was taken by Tol.

    Commenting on the affair, Ackerman writes: 

    He has written to my employers and publishers, accusing me of libel for writing this technical article. This is a false accusation of a serious offense, no longer just an academic disagreement. It has gone far beyond the bounds of acceptable debate.

    2007

    Richard Tol is a “shared winner” of the Nobel Peace Price with Al Gore and other IPCC members. [1] , [5]

    Affiliations

    Publications

    According to Skeptical Science, “there are no peer-reviewed climate papers by Richard Tol” however, Professor Tol has published extensively on economic issues related to climayte change and climate and energy policy. [11]

    View a list of Richard Tol’s published work on Google Scholar.

    Resources

    1. Prof Richard Tol,” Department of Economics, University of Sussex. Archived August 8, 2014.

    2. Richard Tol Dons Cloak of Climate Denial,” DeSmogBlog, July 14, 2014.

    3. Prof. dr. R.S.J. Tol,” Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University. Archived August 8, 2014.

    4. Twitter Biography,” Richard Tol. Archived August 8, 2014.

    5. Richard Tol - Climate economist, unafraid to fight,” Road to Paris. Archived August 8, 2014.

    6. Marlo Lewis. ”“The idea that climate change poses an existential threat to humankind is laughable” — Prof. Richard Tol,” GlobalWarming.org, April 1, 2014. Archived August 8, 2014.

    7. Richard Tol,” Wikipedia.

    8. Why Worry About Climate Change?,” Richard Tol, January 1, 2009.

    9. Richard Tol on climate policy - A critical view of an overview,” Dr. Frank Ackerman, July 21, 2014. Archived August 12, 2014.

    10. IPCC author brands upcoming report 'alarmist',” The Guardian, March 28, 2014. Archived August 12, 2014.

    11. Peer-reviewed skeptic papers by Richard Tol,” Skeptical Science. Archived August 12, 2014

    12. “Background on Key Scientists Appearing in Climate Hustle” (PDF), ClimateHustle.org. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

    13. John Mashey. “Peabody's Outlier Gang Couldn't Shoot Straight In Minnesota Carbon Case, Judge Rebuffs Happer, Lindzen, Spencer, Mendelsohn, Bezdek,” Desmog, June 7, 2016.

    14. “Re: In the Matter of the Further Investigation into Environmental and Socioeconomic Costs Under Minn. Stat. § 216B.2422, Subd. 3” (PDF), April 12, 2016. PDF archived at DeSmog.

    15. ALJ: Minnesota Should Use Federal Costs of Carbon in Decisions,” Bloomberg BNA, April 20, 2016. Archived June 27, 2016.

    16. Coal made its best case against climate change, and lost,” The Guardian, May 11, 2016. Archived June 27, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6iaIFgvfV

    17. Peabody coal's contrarian scientist witnesses lose their court case,” The Guardian, May 2, 2016. Archived June 27, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6iaIuPszO

    18. 'Climate Hustle' debuts as skeptics take on global-warming 'consensus',” The Washington Times, May 1, 2016. Archived August 26, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/XtLXp

    19. Background on Climate Hustle Host and Producers,” ClimateHustle.org. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

    20. Homepage, Climatehustler.org. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/NB9qn

    21. Graham Readfearn. “The Evangelical Christian Climate Deniers Behind Marc Morano’s Climate Hustle Documentary,” Desmog, November 19, 2015.

    22. Matthew Kasper, “Climate Hustle, Latest Global Warming Denial Documentary, Set For World Premiere In Paris During COP21,” Republic Report, November 13, 2015. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/s7OHs

    23. Climate Hustle,” SourceWatch, accessed November 14, 2015. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/bOG35

    24. Graham Readfearn. “Marc Morano's Climate Hustle Film Set For Paris Premiere With Same Old Denial Myths,” Desmog, November 12, 2015.

    25. Graham Readfearn. “The Fakery of the Paris ‘Red Carpet’ Premiere of Marc Morano’s Climate Hustle Film,” Desmog, December 30, 2015.

    26. Richard S.J. Tol. “The Structure of the Climate Debate,”Department of Economics, University of Sussex. Retrieved from IDEAS. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/2nnSm

    27. Richard Tol. “My paper on the structure of the climate debate just sailed through peer review,” Tweet by @RichardTol, October 11, 2016. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

    28. Working Paper Series No. 96-2016: The Structure of the Climate Debate” (PDF), University of Sussex Department of Economics,  August 19, 2016. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

    29. Richard S.J. Tol. “The structure of the climate debate,” Energy Policy, January 11, 2017. Retrieved from ScienceDirect. Archived January 11, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/Iw3b5