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Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Professor climate economics Richard Tol: “There’s no need to panic” (Telegraaf)

The article below is my translation of an article in the Dutch Telegraph of 3 December 2018. 

The first person to open my eyes on climate change was Michael Crichton in his 2004 novel State of Fear. To be very clear: Michael Crichton (1942-2008) was neither a climate skeptic nor a climate change denier. He just argued against the selective use of climate facts – a.k.a. cherry picking

The next person who further opened my eyes was Richard Tol, professor on the economics of climate change. Late 2015, he gave a Dutch interview with the intriguing title: “Earth can easily cope with a few degrees more”. Please see my 2015 English summary.  

The article below argues that climate change is today’s new and fear-based religion. Religion is one of the 7 Belief systems, next to the other six beliefs: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Science, and the Truth. Hence, my blogs Climate change – Science as a Belief system (2015) and Climate change vs poverty & starvation – Science vs Philosophy (2016).

Dutch Telegraph title: Professor Richard Tol: ’No need to panic’

Dutch Telegraph title 2: ’Senseless numbers on global warming’

Dutch Telegraph subtitle: SUSSEX – Richard Tol, Dutch professor on climate economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the University of Sussex, is allergic for the doom and gloom messages on global warming. „It is nauseating.”

Tol has had enough of their apocalyptic message. He explains why in (t)his interview with the Dutch Telegraph.

What alarming news caught your attention?

„A lot, really. The New York Times heading claimed that climate change will cost 10% of American prosperity. Countless media repeated this. However, it was the most extreme scenario that estimated global warming at an unlikely +8 degrees this century. Furthermore, it assumes that people would not adapt physiologically, behaviourally or habitat. This contradicts any epidemiological study.”

So a weird number this 10%?

„An absolutely senseless number.”

The latest report of the UN-climate panel IPCC calls for Katowice agreements on a maximum of 1.5 degrees warming. Where does this 1.5 degree come from? 

„This is absolutely unclear. It’s pure politics, just like the earlier target of two degrees. That one was invented by two German government advisers, and was taken over by the then German climate minister Merkel, German chancellor Kohl, the European Union and the entire UN. However, things do not deteriorate when Earth warms up by 2.1 or 2.5 degrees rather than 2 degrees.”

You know the IPCC. How do these things work?

„The IPCC must only summarise existing scientific data. However, a small group pushes it in a certain direction. It’s collective thinking. First, there are conclusion and then they look for the supporting arguments. They looked for funding in order to incorporate models in this IPCC report on 1.5 degrees. Obviously, that is wrong. This is no mature, well-considered science.”

What does climate change cost?

„For the time being, consequences seem mostly positive. Think about lower fuel cost, less sickness and death in cold winters. And the most positive aspect: carbon dioxide is food for plants. Crops grow faster and have increased water efficiency. This is very important in dry areas.”

And the negative consequences?

„More deaths in summer, spreading of tropical diseases and a sea-level rise. However, that is not yet important.”

When will that happen?

„The next decades? Quite fast. My latest calculations show that this [LO: negative consequences] will happen at about 1.1 degree warming compared to the pre-industrial revolution. That is probably before 2030. However, this is just 1 model calculation.”

Hence, we should worry about the 1.5 degree?

„There will be no immediate enormous damage when things go from positive to negative. All studies indicate that people with a sound education will hardly be hurt by climate change. It is a poverty problem. Take sea-level rise: we know how to deal with that in the Netherlands. However, a country like Bangladesh is much poorer, does not have a Tech University like Delft, and its government is a mess.”

Five [Dutch] ministers fly to Katowice, just like members of Parliament and NGO’s.

„How can you have a meeting with 20,000 people? That makes no sense at all. Many people are just showing off. That includes members of [Dutch] Parliament and I assume also, at least partly, for the [Dutch] Ministers. It’s a circus that costs hundreds of millions. And the main target, reduction of emissions, will not happen.”

Yet Brussels and the Hague increase their ambitions continuously.

„Absolutely. You clearly see this in European climate policies. There is a target that is missed and an even more ambitious target making up for the miss. It’s a fact that we have missed all our targets since 1995. It’s also weird: you don’t plan to reduce your weight by 15 kilogrammes when you have missed your 10 kilogramme target.”

„Our climate targets are too ambitious. They are not realistic. Average Dutch carbon dioxide emissions went down by 0.4% annually between 1990 and 2016. That was quite good because economy and population were growing. Until 2030 this should increase to 4% annually. Ten times as fast! And we still think that we can manage? And 10% annually between 2030 and 2050! Ministers can easily claim this. Responsibility lies with a distant successor.”

Are these high ambitions affordable?

„This will cost a whole lot of money. My first response is that Jan Tinbergen is now officially dead. This economist argued that you need 1 measure in case of 1 target. What are climate panels doing? They think of lots of measures per industry sector. But we want: less carbon dioxide emissions. The easiest is a carbon dioxide charge. And only for emissions that have not yet been regulated in the European emission trade system ETS. So: traffic, households and agriculture. We have have a very small contribution to global emissions anyway. Hence, whatever climate panels agree on, it does not make ANY factual difference.”

[Dutch] citizens are worried by the ending of gas stove cooking and heating.

„I was amazed reading this. How do you want to keep these [Dutch] houses warm? The Netherlands is not suitable for heat pumps. Those work much better in a continental climate and firmer soils.”

Removing gas from all [Dutch] buildings will cost 450 billion euro.

„That seems to outweigh the benefits. I live in the United Kingdom in the country. We have an oil tank in the garden that heats the house. That works fine. People probably need additional heating when they use a heat pump in Dutch winters.”

More subsidies should go to [Dutch] electric vehicles. 

„There are no Dutch companies that make electric vehicles. Hence, those subsidies will go abroad. It’s a subsidy from Dutch taxpayers to some multinationals. And why? Our transport emissions are not relevant at a global level.”

How worried should we be about the climate?

„Alarmists have as little scientific arguments as people who claim it is nonsense. There is no need to panic or to suddenly spend very much money on the climate.”

Is climate a new religion?

„Yes, for a lot of people it is. I have problems with activists who claim that their doom scenarios are supported by science but factually don’t know what they are talking about. Their tone of voice is like how pastors / reverends talked back then: very preachy, in which emissions are the new sin, and you are better than others when you care about the environment. That is nauseating.”


Notes LO: 

  1. My Dutch to English translation is on a best efforts basis. Any error is my responsibility. 
  2. I have added some URLs for clarification purposes.


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