Richard Tol - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard S. J. Tol (born 2 December 1969, Hoorn, the Netherlands) is a professor of economics at the University of Sussex. He is also professor of the economics of climate change at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is a member of the Academia Europaea.

Academic career[edit]

Tol obtained an MSc in Econometrics and Operations Research and a PhD in economics from the VU University Amsterdam in 1992 and 1997. In 1998, he contributed with some 19 other academics to a joint project of the United Nations Environment Programme at his home university.[1] Tol collaborated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.[2]

He regularly participates in studies of the Energy Modeling Forum, is an editor of Energy Economics, associate editor of Environmental and Resource Economics, and a member of the editorial board of Environmental Science and Policy, and Integrated Assessment. IDEAS/RePEc ranks him among the top 250 economists in the world.[3]

Tol specialises in energy economics and environmental economics, with a particular interest in climate change, such as the economics of global warming. Previously, Tol was a Research Professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute. Before that, Tol was the Michael Otto Professor of Sustainability and Global Change and director of the Center for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and board member of the Center for Marine and Climate Research at the University of Hamburg. Tol was a board member of the International Max Planck Research Schools on Earth System Modeling and Maritime Affairs and the European Forum on Integrated Environmental Assessment.[2] From 1998–2008 he was an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Engineering and Public Policy, and from 2010–2011 an adjunct professor at Trinity College, Dublin's Department of Economics.

Climate change[edit]

According to Tol "the impact of climate change is relatively small".[4] He was also among the US SenateRepublican Party's "list of scientists disputing man-made global warming claims", which stated that Tol "dismissed the idea that mankind must act now to prevent catastrophic global warming".[5]

Tol characterises his position as arguing that the economic costs of climate policy should be kept in proportion to its benefits.[6][7][8]

He argues against the 2 °C 'guardrail' target for limiting temperature rises.[9] Tol does not advocate another target, but has recommended a carbon tax of $5/tC.[10] He acknowledges that this level of taxation is too low to significantly discourage fossil fuel use but argues it would help to stimulate the development of fuel-saving technology and improve the competitiveness of renewable energy sources. He states that compliance may affect the coal and oil industries and the people they employ.

In an interview with Der Spiegel in 2005, he argued that temperature rises between 2–4 °C would also have advantages. North of a line drawn from Paris to Munich, people would benefit, e.g., from reduced energy bills. However, south of it, people would be overall "losers" of climate change.[11]

In 2007, Tol predicted a reduction in annual economic growth by 0.4% in the Republic of Ireland if greenhouse gases were reduced by 3% per year.[12]

Originally designated as a lead author for the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Tol said in March 2014 that he had withdrawn from the work with the report in September 2013, citing disagreement with the profile of the report which he considered too alarmistic and putting too little emphasis on opportunies to adapt to climate changes.[13]

Copenhagen Consensus[edit]

Bjørn Lomborg chose Tol to participate in his "Copenhagen Consensus" project in 2008. In 2008, Tol collaborated with Gary Yohe, Richard G. Richels and Geoffrey Blanford to prepare the "Challenge Paper" on global warming which examined three approaches devised by Lomborg for tackling the issue.[14] The 3 results were then compared with 27 similar investigations, 3 each relating to 9 other 'challenges' in the areas of health and environment. Of the 30 policy alternatives that resulted, Lomborg's ranking procedure rated the 2 dealing with controlling emissions of greenhouse gases 29th and 30th in terms of cost effectiveness.

Kåre Fog pointed out that the benefits of emissions reduction were discounted at a higher rate than for any of the other proposals,[15] stating "so there is an obvious reason why the climate issue always is ranked last" in Lomborg's environmental studies. Tol accepted that emissions reduction was accounted for differently from the competing proposals it was ranked against.[16] Fog further criticised the study because, by using aggregate GDP to evaluate outcomes across regions of differing prosperity, it accorded people in wealthy countries more weight than those in poor countries purely because they are wealthier.

A "perspective paper" by Anil Markandya of the University of Bath on the Yohe/Tol study stated that "a short time period analysis is misleading" when all the costs are incurred during the period examined but benefits continue to accrue after its conclusion.[17] He pointed out that the study "stops short of the most that can be supported on a cost benefit basis" and stated that "it does not seem reasonable" to rely solely on Tol's own FUND model when alternatives "reported in the peer-reviewed literature are also credible".

Gary Yohe later accused Lomborg of "deliberate distortion of our conclusions",[18] adding that "as one of the authors of the Copenhagen Consensus Project's principal climate paper, I can say with certainty that Lomborg is misrepresenting our findings thanks to a highly selective memory". In a subsequent joint statement settling their differences, Lomborg and Yohe agreed that the "failure" of Lomborg's emissions reduction plan "could be traced to faulty design".[19]

Lomborg awarded Tol a position on his Copenhagen Consensus panel again in 2009. According to Tol, "Lomborg successfully punches holes in climate hysteria" and "plays a useful role in the debate on climate policy".[20]

Climate change and conflict[edit]

According to Tol, "it is not clear whether climate change would lead to conflict".[21] Citing a lack of suitable methods for evaluating hypothetical conflicts numerically, he examines what he calls plausible scenarios, such as drought and migration in the Horn of Africa or an upsurge in terrorism.

Regarding terrorism, he says "it may well be that a Maldivian terrorist will try and blow up the headquarters of ExxonAramco".[21] Regarding the Horn of Africa scenario, he acknowledges it might cause substantial human suffering but assesses the probability of this actually happening as unlikely. He concludes that "poor and exhausted people are unlikely to take up arms, and if they do, they are probably not very effective".[21]


  1. ^Feenstra, J.F. (1998 print). Handbook on Methods. for Climate Change Impact Assessment and Adaptation Strategies. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  2. ^ abSolomon, Lawrence (2010). The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud. United States: Richard Vigilante Books. ISBN 978-0-9800763-7-0. , p. 20.
  3. ^Top 5% Authors on IDEAS/RePEc
  4. ^Tol, Richard (2009). "Why Worry About Climate Change?". ESRI Research Bulletin 2009/1/1. Dublin: ESRI. 
  5. ^Minority Senate report
  6. ^Financial Times, Jan 17, 2008
  7. ^Financial Times, Jan 18, 2007
  8. ^New Scientist, Dec 5, 2007
  9. ^Tol, Richard S. J. (January 2006 online; January 2007 print). "Europe's long-term climate target: A critical evaluation". Energy Policy (Elsevier) 35 (1): 424–432. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2005.12.003. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  10. ^R.S.J. Tol (2008), The Social Cost of Carbon: Trends, Outliers and Catastrophes, Economics the E-Journal, 2008–25
  11. ^Spiegel, Feb 21, 2005
  12. ^Irish Times, Dec 20, 2007
  13. ^IPCC author brands upcoming climate report 'alarmist'The Guardian. 28 March 2014. Retrieved 29 March 2014
  14. ^Yohe, Gary; Tol, Richard (2008). "Copenhagen Consensus Challenge Paper 2008: Global Warming". Copenhagen. 
  15. ^"index". Retrieved 2012-06-09. 
  16. ^[1][dead link]
  17. ^Markandya, Anil (2008). "Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Perspective Paper: Global Warming". Copenhagen. 
  18. ^Yohe, Gary (2008-08-22). "Climate change is real, compelling and urgent". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  19. ^Lomborg, Björn (2008-09-01). "It's not about us". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  20. ^"The Irish Economy » Blog Archive » Economics, voodoo, and climate policy". 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2012-06-09. 
  21. ^ abcTol, RSJ (2008). "Why Worry About Climate Change? A Research Agenda". Environmental Values17 (4): 437–470. doi:10.3197/096327108X368485

External links[edit]

NameTol, Richard S.J.
Alternative names
Short descriptionDutch economist
Date of birth1969-12-02
Place of birthHoorn, Netherlands
Date of death
Place of death