Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

+2 degrees? So what???

22 December 2015

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Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who considers the current climate change debate as utterly ridiculous. The only positive result following this debate is a decrease of the use of fossil fuels and an increase in the use of renewable energy. Our planet’s ecology will benefit from this change.

Yesterday I read an interview in a Dutch newspaper called Algemeen Dagblad with Richard Tol, a professor of economics at the University of Sussex. He is also professor of the economics of climate change at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. For several years, he contributed to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. For Dutch interview see link.

Mr Tol states that there is no reason to assume that climate change is actually that horrible. He subtly adds that this is quite different for fund raising organisations like Greenpeace or certain politicians who want to save the world. They benefit from exaggerating. The reality is that the climate hardly affects our well-being and our prosperity. Neither is climate change our most important environmental problem today. Air pollution kills some 4 million people annually. The IPCC reports assume a maximum of 1 million deaths by 2100 due to climate change.

Mr Tol says that there is mass hysteria when it comes to climate change. Climate change is a very complex subject which has only been researched for a short while and we just do not know much about it. The only thing we do know is that there are more greenhouse gasses in the air and that temperatures are rising because of that.

Mr Tol states that the IPCC reports assume a maximum temperature increase of 5 degrees while the difference between morning and afternoon temperature is some 8 degrees on average. The mere fact that a certain period of year is warmer than normal is not necessarily an indication of climate change. And even if it would be then the consequences would be subtle rather than dramatic.

In relation to the recent climate change summit in Paris, Mr Tol is critical. There are no surprises. There is no link whatsoever between the climate goals and the climate policies until now. These climate goals are like world peace: It would be good if there would be peace but until then we continue fighting. The climate agreements stipulate that a parliament should indicate now what it should do by 2100. This is obviously meaningless, in Mr Tol’s view.

While thousands of civil servants are dealing with the subject of climate change, Mr Tol has a very pragmatic solution for reducing greenhouse gasses: introduce a carbon (emission) tax and reduce wage taxes at the same time. This would just require 3 civil servants in the Finance Ministry.

The reporter is curious if Mr Tol is not worried about the future of his children due to climate change. “Not at all. [] The best estimate is that the sea level will increase half a meter this century. [] The Netherlands has the money and the knowledge to do something against it. The most poor people will be hurt by climate change. It is about the grand children of people in a country like Bangladesh which indeed runs a risk due to an increase of the sea level. But why are we suddenly interested in the grand children of people about whom we do not care. Poverty is a bigger problem than climate change. Do you help the poor by reducing greenhouse gasses or by fighting poverty? It is an important question to which no one has a clear answer”.

Final note: all translations from the Dutch interview to this English language blog have been done at my best efforts and any mistake is entirely my sole responsibility. Italic marking is also mine.

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