By Ben Spencer
PUBLISHED: 18:29 EST, 25 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:13 EST, 26 March 2014
Criticism: Professor Richard Tol demanded his name be removed from a climate change report, accusing the UN of being too alarmist
A climate scientist has accused the United Nations of being too alarmist over global warming – and demanded his name be removed from a crucial new report.
Professor Richard Tol, an economist at the University of Sussex, said fellow UN academics were exaggerating climate change and comparing it to the ‘apocalypse’.
His comments are a blow to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which on Monday will publish its first update in seven years on the impacts of climate change.
Previous IPCC reports on climate impact have been plagued by errors that damaged the body’s credibility.
Most famously, it said in 2007 that glaciers in the Himalayas could disappear by 2035, a claim it has since withdrawn.
Scientists are meeting in Japan this week to agree the wording of the final document, which will be used to inform policy decisions of governments around the world.
Leaked drafts of the report predict that by the end of the century man-made global warming will have done serious harm to the global economy, displaced hundreds of millions of people and created violent conflict. Chapters on flooding, water supply and agriculture estimate huge impacts.
Prof Tol, the lead co-ordinating author of the report’s chapter on economics, was involved in drafting the summary for policymakers – the key document that goes to governments and scientists. But he has now asked for his name to be removed from the document.
He said: ‘The message in the first draft was that through adaptation and clever development these were manageable risks, but it did require we get our act together.
‘This has completely disappeared from the draft now, which is all about the impacts of climate change and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This is a missed opportunity.’
Professor Tol told the BBC: ‘You have a very silly statement in the draft summary that says that people who live in war-torn countries are more vulnerable to climate change, which is undoubtedly true.
But if you ask people in Syria whether they are more concerned with chemical weapons or climate change, I think they would pick chemical weapons – that is just silliness.’
'Exaggerating': A scene from the 2004 film The Day After Tomorrow. Professor Tol said said fellow UN academics were exaggerating climate change and comparing it to the 'apocalypse'
The report is the second of three IPCC reports addressing the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change.
Last September the first report summarised the physical science of climate change, concluding that scientists are 95 per cent certain that humans are the ‘dominant cause’ of global warming.
The second part will set out the impact a warming world will have on people, economies, animals and natural ecosystems.
The third part, to be finalised next month, will summarise possible mitigation – what we can do to reduce the problem.
Prof Tol does not dispute the view that climate change is caused by man – but he says its impact has been exaggerated. However, others say his figures underestimate the economic impact of climate change.
Bob Ward, of the London School of Economics, said: ‘Prof Tol’s contribution to the IPCC report has been under scrutiny because he inserted – at a very late stage, so avoiding the IPCC expert review process – a section which publicised his own work.
‘The section contained a number of errors. Prof Tol has expressed extreme reluctance to correct the errors in his work and it does not surprise me that he alone among the 410 authors of this report has refused to endorse the summary.’
But Professor Tol said: ‘Mr Ward is wrong on all scores. No new material was introduced after the expert or indeed the government review. Rather, material was moved from one chapter to another.
'That material was taken from 18 different studies, only two of which by me. All errors that were identified, including a minor one by Mr Ward, have been corrected. No IPCC author is ever asked to endorse the Summary for Policy Makers.’