Innovation
Richard Tol dissents on climate change report
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Mar 31, 2014 - 7:00 AM

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Prof Richard Tol Photo: The Academy of Europe

Richard Tol, the Dutch environmental economist, who left Dublin's ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) in 2012 after a dispute about research techniques, has become a dissenting author of the UN's  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report published Monday, that says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans.

The summary report, titled 'Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC', details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks. A total of 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, drawn from 70 countries, were selected to produce the report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers.

The report concludes that responding to climate change involves making choices about risks in a changing world. The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises. The report identifies vulnerable people, industries, and ecosystems around the world. It finds that risk from a changing climate comes from vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm’s way) overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends). Each of these three components can be a target for smart actions to decrease risk.

Richard Tol, now a professor at the University of Sussex and a professor of the Economics of Climate Change, Institute for Environmental Studies and Department of Spatial Economics, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, has told Reuters that he disagreed with some findings of the summary issued in Japan today.

"The drafts became too alarmist," he said but he acknowledged some other authors "strongly disagree with me."

The Financial Times reports today that Chris Field, professor of environmental studies at Stanford University in California, co-chair of the IPCC working group that produced the report, said Prof Tol was outside the mainstream scientific community. He suggested that the economist was upset because his research had not been better represented in the summary.

“When the IPCC does a report, what you get is the community’s position. Richard Tol is a wonderful scientist but he’s not at the centre of the thinking. He’s kind of out on the fringe,” Prof Field said before the report’s release.

“We have other authors who are out on the fringe on the other side and I can assure you that every one of the 309 authors on my report thinks that his or her research is under-cited and is not adequately represented in the findings of the overall report.”

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