Via BigCityLib (whose post title I stole), the story of Richard Tol’s approach to science:

For the 2008 project, Tol co-wrote a paper along with Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University and two researchers from the Electric Power Research Institute, a US trade association. The two climate change proposals were ranked against numerous development and human welfare issues and came in 29th and 30th out of 30.

Long-term Lomborg critic KÃ¥re Fog took Tol, whose FUND computer-model was the basis for the simulation, to task about the study. Tol admitted that the study used a discount rate that fell gradually from 5% whereas all the competing proposals used a 3% rate. Tol excused himself by saying that re-writing the model to use the 3% discount rate was too difficult and that the other proposals should have used his rate, even though the project specifications dictated 3% and he has at other times successfully employed FUND with other rates. This inherent bias caused the bottom ranking.

Fog’s criticisms did not end there. Tol claims his research showed a net benefit from global warming until mid-century, after which the effects turn sharply negative. For this purpose, welfare effects were calculated in local economy terms, with deaths for example being costed at a certain multiple of local per-capita GDP. Thus a single European saved from winter influenza, probable – in actuarial terms – to be elderly and infirm, outweighed not one but many Africans dying – likely in the prime of life – due to global warming.


While empirically-based criticism is central to science, Tol has shown no zeal in his dealings with Lomborg or with Ian Plimer, another scientific fraud alongside whom Tol acts as scientific advisor for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a secretive pressure group opposed to fossil-fuel restrictions. Plimer often simply reverses the conclusions of papers cited when it suits his purposes, a fact he didn’t deny when it was put to him three times on ABC television. Astrophysicist Michael Ashley described his book Heaven and Earth as “scientifically worthless” in The Australian.


  1. #1 Eli Rabett
    January 11, 2011

    Well, the lawyers have this habit of wanting money unless you can get some political front group to support you.

  2. #2 Majorajam
    January 11, 2011

    John is right- GDP growth is a core parameter of the Ramsey formulation of interest rates that Dr. Tol’s FUND model employed, (actually per capita GDP, but given population growth trajectories, there’s no longer much difference). Stern likewise used Ramsey interest rates, albeit with profoundly different parameter choices (which as Weitzman has illustrated is the first order driver of the results of models of this ilk).

    GDP is a theoretical determinant of interest rates from two perspectives of which I’m aware. The one you’ll hear from economists- the intertemporal substitution effect, i.e. people will be richer in the future, and transfer payments from the poor to the rich, (economists view savings through the prism of consumption forgone), create negative utility by the empirical/theoretical concave marginal utility of wealth. And the one you’ll here from finance types: GDP growth is the aggregate of sales/revenue growth that forms the basis of asset returns. As the return to all assets in an economy must equal the growth rate in equilibrium, it follows that real interest rates and GDP growth are joined at the hip.

    Tim Worstall is wrong about a great many things, and certainly about the justification for a declining discount rate. That is actually a function of uncertainty about the appropriate Ramsey parameters for risk aversion and the pure rate of time preference. Courtesy of the most powerful force in the universe, formalizing that uncertainty bends discount rates toward their lower bounds as they are compounded through time. I’m fairly sure this explains the declining discount rate employed by Tol.

    One more thing: as it appears to be of interest to Worstall and several other deniers that have posted on this thread, real global interest rates weren’t anywhere near 5% when this analysis was commissioned, and haven’t been for well over a decade.

    I’m with a few posters here though who’ve noted that Tol’s laughingstock model is not the issue here, but the fact that he was either duped into creating a misleading analysis, or that he fraudulently presented his results as employing a discount rate of 3%. His despicable prevarication here would lead one to believe he was not the dupe, but rather an active participant in the conspiracy to hoodwink the public at large on an issue of terrific importance to their well being. If trying to persuade people through use of facts and reason is authoritarianism, one wonders how to describe the good professor’s own behavior?

  3. #3 Marlowe Johnson
    January 11, 2011

    In fairness to Tol, Gary Yohe was the lead author not Tol. On the other hand, I suspect that if anyone was ‘duped’ it was likely Yohe, not Tol….

  4. #4 Richard Tol
    January 11, 2011

    @Someone who calls himself Marlowe Johnson but really is someone else

    I do not make a secret of the value judgements implicit in any attempt to quantify the seriousness of climate change. In fact, I have discussed these things repeatedly in op-eds published in daily newspapers. Indeed, you are so well-informed about these matters because we have been so open.

    Climate change has different impacts for different times, for different people, for different species, for different places, and is very uncertain at that.

    As soon as you say “the carbon tax should be such” or “the emissions target should be so”, you have passed judgement on the importance of humans v other species, on likely and unlikely, on rich and poor, and on close and far.

  5. #5 Marlowe Johnson
    January 11, 2011

    thanks for stopping by Richard.

    It’s the difference between what you say in your academic work and the attitude you seem to display on blogs that I suppose I take issue with. Your academic work is indeed appropriately caveated. However, Jon Q public is much more likely to read the latter, and given your credentials give your POV more weight. Can you point me to the countless op-eds where you layout the usefulness of SCC exercices (e.g. valuing coloured folks less)?

    Again, I don’t have any problem with these assumptions when used as an academic exercise. Using it to inform policy matters is a different story altoghether. And it is precisely this kind of narrow utilitarian perspective that you seem so wedded that has led to ‘post-normal’ science. Thank you for that.

    p.s. you can call me Fat Bastard if it makes you feel better 🙂

  6. #6 Marlowe Johnson
    January 11, 2011

    p.p.s. I fist learned about the normative aspects of climate change economics from Chris Greene at McGill in the mid-90s and from reading William Cline’s work….I didn’t have the pleasure of your wading through your stuff til later. 🙂

  7. #7 Rocco
    January 11, 2011

    Richard Tol: You say “Our discount rate is close to one of the two standard rate in CC08.” Could you tell us which one it is? The differences in discount rates used in other studies in CC08 seem to have a large impact on the benefit-cost ratio. Are you certain that if the other studies used your discount ratio, the rankings would remain unchanged?

  8. #8 Richard Tol
    January 11, 2011

    We were closer to the higher discount rate.

    @Not Marlowe
    I repeat: I regularly publish about these things on blogs and in newspapers.

  9. #9 jakerman
    January 11, 2011

    Marlowe asks for specifics:

    >*Can you point me to the countless op-eds where you layout the usefulness of SCC exercices (e.g. valuing coloured folks less)?*

    Tol declines:

    >*@Not Marlowe I repeat: I regularly publish about these things on blogs and in newspapers.*

    Who knows if Tols purposley evasive? Yet we see that Tol is persistantly vague.

  10. #10 Eli Rabett
    January 11, 2011

    Ask not for whom the Tol trolls, ask why he insists on tying himself up in knots.

    Really now Richard, accusing others of being authoritarian for having an opinion that they think is right is trying to force your opinion on others which labels you as the world’s first Discount Rate Nazi. It also demonstrates why your opinion on this is an idiotic oxymoron, which, Eli guesses, in Tol speak means that Eli is being authoritarian, except that Eli knows he is right and that Richard will never admit is, which means that. . . Oh, never mind.

    Richard’s defense is that he uses his model with all sorts of discount rates, but somehow, Eli knows not how, the ones that make it into the headlines are the ones with the high and unrealistic rates, the ones that make taking action on atmospheric carbon contamination look foolish, while the ones that he pushes when challenged are the lower ones. The choices are that Richard is a Pielke or there are a whole bunch of Lomborgs out there trying to make him look stupid. That is what Eli says is right, which makes him, what was that word. . . .

  11. #11 Bernard J.
    January 12, 2011

    Richard Tol.

    [Marlowe Johnson mentions the nature of your assumptions in terms of academic exercise vs actual application](, and I am keen to explore this in more detail. However, as others have pointed out, you appear to be evading certain questions, and I myself find that your responses have been vague and dissembling at the least.

    Just to set the scene, I’ll reiterate [one of my questions](

    I’m not asking for an extended rehash of your methodology, but I am very keen to try to understand the overall basis upon which you determined that action to mitigate warming ranks so much lower than other actions.

    You see, from what I can gather, you’re approaching this from a very standard economic perspective, based on a very materialist starting point. That’s fine if all you’re doing is speaking to business in the short-term, but the whole issue of climate change itself transcends considerations of business and investment growth.

    [Eli]( mentions social ‘discount rates’, and I am curious to understand to what extent you include and exclude issues that fall under this banner, how you have valued them, and upon what criteria you did so. As an ecologist, I am also particularly interested in how you assessed biological/ecological costs, including but by no means restricted to biodiversity loss, ecosystem service/function/resilience damage, alterations in disease distribution, and potential changes to hydrological regimes.

    Several people have pointed out factors that make estimations of discount rates [impossible to determine]( for periods not in the near future. What assumptions have you used in order to extend your application of discount rates as far as you do? Do these assumptions have any validity beyond your period of analysis? If not, why not? If not, what are the implications for decisions made based upon the discount rates that you chose?

    [You say](

    @Bernard J The net positive economic impact of climate change in the first half of the 21st century is discussed in AR3 and AR4 of the IPCC.

    The result (which is based on the work of a number of people) follows from the fact that the world economy is concentrated in the temperate zone. You only need to think back a few weeks to realize that cold can be very damaging.

    To what extent do your analyses account for shiftings in climatic zones to 2050, and how these shiftings will impact on the distribution of human (whether Western or otherwise) activity? After all, you only need think back over the last several years to realise that heat and drought can be very damaging too…
    [Marlowe Johnson]( observes that high discount rates under-value the costs to the far future, as well as too non-Western people and (implicitly) to the non-human biosphere.

    Tell me, do you agree that the notion of the ‘benefit’ of a positive discount rate is predicated on a consumptive, growing economy? [John Mashey]( presses explicitly on this point, and [Majorajam commented upon it too](, but I have not seen any description from you on this thread that formalises your own thoughts on this matter, and how this ties in with my questions above. In this vein, I’m especially interested to know what predicates of future economic activity you used in your modelling.

    Even direct links to specific text would suffice, in order to enable us to assess what you regard as internalities and what you consider to be externalities, and thus to assess the credibility of your modelling in terms of these internalities and externalities. If you “do not make a secret of [your] value judgements implicit in any attempt to quantify the seriousness of climate change” why will you not provide a working précis here? I am not going to trawl through the internet in an attempt to gather a representative selection of your thoughts from various [op-eds](, and nor should I have to, if you are prepared yourself to come here to defend your analyses on this thread.

    [You say](

    Climate change has different impacts for different times, for different people, for different species, for different places, and is very uncertain at that.

    As soon as you say “the carbon tax should be such” or “the emissions target should be so”, you have passed judgement on the importance of humans v other species, on likely and unlikely, on rich and poor, and on close and far.

    Fine words, but please provide the bases upon which you make your analyses that are being used to inform future action on global warming. It would seem to me that your assumptions and choice of discount rates similarly “passe[s] judgement on the importance of humans v other species, on likely and unlikely, on rich and poor, and on close and far”, and yet you are not being clear about what these bases are.

  12. #12 Gaz
    January 12, 2011

    OK, JM, we are now on the same page – GDP *per capita* underpins potential consumption per capita etc. Thank you.

    This is probably not the place to go into this, but I’d just like to repeat my comment that economics generally does not deal well with either interpersonal and intertemporal comparisons of utility.

    The assumption of declining marginal utility, especially in an intertemporal context, and especially when some actors in the drama have not been born yet (and do not therefore even get to participate in the decision), is just one example of the way value judgements get slipped into welfare economics when no-one’s looking.

  13. #13 John Mashey
    January 12, 2011

    Gaz: yes, economics does not seem to deal well with those.
    But the practical problem with those is that they often turn into ethics arguments whose resolution is difficult.

    I simply point out that regardless of whether one wants the discount rate to be high (because one wants to ignore the future), or wants it to be low (to take better care of the future), or just wants GDP/person growth to be well-forcasted by the last century or two of (one-time fossil-fueled) growth, the idea that GDP/person grows indefinitely seems an extraordinary claim that needs extraordinary evidence.

    I would just be happier if I saw more runs that increased the energy/person for a few decades and then accounted for realistic effects of peak oil, and then peak gas. It seems all too possible for the GDP/person of 2100 to be lower, not higher, especially in places that use a lot of gas/oil
    [It doesn’t affect poor African farmers much: they don’t have tractors and never will have gas/diesel-powered ones. Those who own 300-hp combines will need to have shifted off petroleum.]

    After all, many people deal with this exact thing on a personal basis:

    a) People in their 20s rarely save money for retirement, given that they are usually nowhere near peak earnings.

    b) Later on, they are accumulating pension or retirement nest-egg during their high earning years.

    c) When they (really) retire, salary goes to zero, and by then, there had better have been investments adequate to generate adequate cash.

    Put another way, if money ~ energy, people need to be investing it while they have lots of it, to rework infrastucture and transport so that it still works later, when there may well not be as much spare available to invest.

    Fast-cycle product businesses face this all the time, are rapid rates. Suppose you are shipping product N and it’s making lots of money.

    You can:
    1) Pay everybody a lot, and have lots of parties.
    In Silicon Valley, a lot of this happened during the Dot-com boom. OR

    2) Knowing the product cycle wouldn’t last forever, invest enough in R&D that product N+1 is ready to replace N at the right time.

    If you wait too long, you may discover that it is TOO LATE, and you no longer have the capital to do the development to stay competitive. You may also be stuck with an inventory of stuff you need to sell at loss that is no longer the right thing.

    Now you’re in a death spiral and soon to “auger in.”

    So, I do not discount the ethics issues, but I would sure like to understand how GDP/person keeps growing as though fossil fuel were forever … and it does have the best EROEI, which is why people use it.

  14. #14 toby
    January 12, 2011

    Tol who works for the Irish Economic and Social Research Institute is also the subject of a critical article in the magazine Village. YOu will need to scroll about halfway down to get the Tol bits:

    “Tol, who refers to those concerned about what he calls the “new religion of climate change” with labels like “fanatics” and “adherents of the Church of Gaia”, ….. Lomborg and Tol continue to make media appearances together and Lomborg cites Tol’s work in every article he writes.

    When controversies about the Climate Research Unit and IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri’s TERI foundation arose in the media, Tol was quick to paint each in the darkest terms on the scantiest of evidence.”

    I challenged Tol on his blog to name those scientists who he considered held “religious” views on climate change, and the only two he came up with were Joe Romm and an Irish journalist, John Gibbons. With respect to Romm, I think his science days are behind him. Michael Mann, Jim Hansen and others can sigh with relief .. they have passed the Tol test.

  15. #15 Rocco
    January 12, 2011

    Richard Tol: And the higher discount rate was the one used in the rankings?

  16. #16 Richard Tol
    January 12, 2011

    Thanks for that clarification. There are indeed people who make a religion out of climate change, but this is rare (unheard of?) among natural scientists.

    @Not Marlowe
    Sorry. I missed your request for specific references. You could have clicked on my name or used Google. Here’s two:{E7D4BB8D-5C61-95DF-749A-BA9B22F7FAE9}&rub={C5406E11-4228-4FB6-BB79-CE581A20766E}

  17. #17 Marlowe Johnson
    January 12, 2011

    not to be difficult Richard but are there any that are in english or french (don’t speak italian) and that aren’t behind a paywall?

    never mind….found a link:

    Scanning through the print articles I didn’t see anything about SCC or the assumptions that you’ve typically made (or avoided making). Mostly you seem to say:

    1. ipcc wg2 and wg3 are bad, pachauri is the worst

    2. ipcc is being an advocate. this is bad.

    3. ireland shouldn’t use subsidies to achieve its energy policy goals.

    4. peat is bad.

    While I agree mostly agree with 3 and wholeheartedly with 4, it seems to me that in making those statements you are yourself guilty of the crime that you accuse Pachauri of! Or am I missing something?

  18. #18 Majorajam
    January 12, 2011

    Very noble of you Dr. Tol. Your openness and honesty are as commendable as your signal contributions to the Copenhagen deception are despicable. Well, not really, but whatever makes you sleep at night.

    Still, it is amazing to me how confused you are. Allow me to unpack this: You deride activism, and then abet and associate with activists- and not garden variety activists, but those whose prodigious track records of lies and distortion precede them.

    You belittle the capacity of value judgments to guide policy, and then unburden yourself in the Deltoid confessional about the overwhelming degree to which your own subjective judgments rule the world of the (outlier) work you do. Hey, wasn’t this supposed to account for the high-handed jihad against Dr. Stern following publication of the Stern Review?… yea.

    You express skepticism about stated preferences and then deride scientists and environmental activists as elitists from your place of honor in the denialosphere. Or that Mr. Hyde’s contribution?

    You wax romantic about your openness immediately before and after inartfully dodging very clear questions about serious academic misconduct. Which you continue to stonewall. And yet have the brass cahones to play for hearts and minds in the comments thread.

    I could go on. I won’t. Seriously though, your very statements here about the boulders of salt with which we are supposed to take FUND results, (and I’ll go ahead and assume that wasn’t for my benefit, or we’re talking byte loads of wasted bits), are just extraordinary given how willing you are to let that work be paraded around the public sphere by folks looking to assure people that we’ve got this climate change business under control. Staggering really. I’m at a loss for words. They should’ve sent a poet. All I can think of is Jeremy Grantham after Greenspan took to the FT to claim he had no regrets about anything, “what can you say to that?”

    PS One more thing- I am particularly fond of how you keep mentioning that you’re for a carbon tax. Robert Duval’s character in Apocalypse Now was fond of giving wounded enemy soldiers/Vietnamese civilians water. It didn’t make him a humanitarian.

  19. #19 frankis
    January 12, 2011

    Perhaps Lomborg has Richard to thank for his semblance of increasing understanding of science and economics. Of course the association has clear downside for Richard, Lomborg being a political scientist famous for not understanding enough about what it is he is saying to be guilty of what would otherwise have been scientific misconduct.

    Richard’s willingness to associate his name with Lomborg’s is an implicit value judgment by him. Nothing Richard will go on to say, or his models project, should surprise anyone who already understands the Lomborg phenomenon.

  20. #20 Tim Worstall
    January 13, 2011

    “as it appears to be of interest to Worstall and several other deniers”

    Sorry, but could you be more specific about whatever it is that I’m denying or a denier of?

    I’ve written any number of times that my belief is that climate change is happening, that it’s being caused by us humans, largely though our use of fossil fuels and yes, even that it’s a problem, a problem we should do something about.

    Given that my day job involves trying to extract the minerals which will make solid oxide fuel cells work I think it would be really rather odd if I didn’t take such a view actually: especially since I’ve personally subsidised some of the work into such fuel cells.

    Just because I disagree with some on what we should do about the problem doesn’t make me a denier of anything as far as I can see.

  21. #21 Rocco
    January 13, 2011

    Majorajam, Tim Worstall : I agree with Tim. The word denier denotes a specific group of rather unsavory characters and if people throw it around too much it will lose all meaning.

    Richard Tol: Could you please answer the question? Do you know how much is the discount rate used in your study compatible with the rate used in the rankings?

  22. #22 Wow
    January 13, 2011

    Rocco: however, there are an awful lot of people who *say* they agree with all that but don’t want anything done about it in reducing emissions and doing better with what we have.

    Many times using the same techniques as “classical” deniers.

    Additionally, it could be “Tim Worstall (and some other people who are deniers)” hence not calling Tim a “classical” denier.

    In short, Tim: grow a pair and don’t be such a wuss. Just realise that your rhetoric may have led someone to assume something you’re not and explain the facts and stop playing the drama queen.

  23. #23 Majorajam
    January 13, 2011


    I suppose the fact my use of ‘denier’ differs from others accounts for the misunderstanding. You see, the claims you’ve just made are claims that both Lomborg and Tol could make. As Richard is fond of reminding us, he is even for a carbon tax! (1¢ per 50 trillion gigatons may not sound like a lot, but it punches well above its weight in the rhetorical utility department). But I don’t see that as differentiating Lomborg or Tol or you from Watts, Morano, Glenn Beck or Matt Drudge (and neither, frankly, do most deniers).

    What really separates Lomborg and Tol, (and I would assume you, based on your kneejerk reaction from ignorance to this blog post), from Watts, Morano, Glenn Beck or Matt Drudge isn’t a higher regard for evidence or truth or the scientific method, but rather a difference opinion about the best way to delude the public on this issue.

    The latter realize how preposterous it is that there is a conspiracy of thousands of scientists to delude us all, and presumably take over the UN to set up a world socialist government, and are aren’t comfortable slinging that particular brand of poo. They are however perfectly comfortable, as the record will reflect, with playing fast and loose with discount rates, citations and the complexity of scientific findings. Their interest is in the rhetorical war they are engaged in and in the benefits that accrue to them by pursuing it. Nothing else.

    And it hurts me to have to write this, but a lie is a lie. Why then should I be forced to differentiate between them and the other brand of liars? This is not to say that it’s not possible to be mislead on or to misjudge the issue, and you may very well fall into the latter category. Perhaps, as Rocco noted, I’ve jumped to a conclusion I shouldn’t have. But it is impossible to approach this issue honestly, be qualified, be informed, and come to the conclusions Richard Tol or Bjorn Lomborg have (or at least the ones they express publicly). Their whole world revolves around the idea that we can predict to some degree of precision the outcome of the massive experiment we are running on something as fundamental to life as the climate of the only planet we have, and it is a sorry house of cards. A sorry pathetic house of cards.

    It’s also hypocritical of course. The overlap between the people who told us that after September 11th we could no longer tolerate the risk of arabs with weapons and thus must invade and bomb to the tune of trillions will, with a straight face, complain that the cost of insurance against cataclysmic climate outcomes is just too high to be able to justify.

    These people are deniers. Deniers of the dissonant cognitions they must suppress to come to their ridiculous view of the world if nothing else.

  24. #24 Rocco
    January 13, 2011

    Wow, Majorajam: All I’m saying is, denier is a strong word. Before using it, you should be extra careful not to read too much into three uninformed comments somebody made on a blog.

  25. #25 Eli Rabett
    January 13, 2011

    Perhaps, only perhaps mind you, Eli can clear some things up or not

  26. #26 Wow
    January 14, 2011

    > Wow, Majorajam: All I’m saying is, denier is a strong word.

    Indeed it is.

    So is lie. But when someone tells a mistruth, just because “lie” is a strong word, why can’t it be used.

    And lots of people complain bitterly about being called “denier” when they are most DEFINITELY a denier, it would be just as correct (your second and last sentence is, to a large extent, correct) for someone to be extra careful about complaining about the label.


  27. #27 Jeff Harvey
    January 14, 2011

    *Their whole world revolves around the idea that we can predict to some degree of precision the outcome of the massive experiment we are running on something as fundamental to life as the climate of the only planet we have, and it is a sorry house of cards*

    This is perfectly and accurately put. The likes of Tol and Lomborg appear to think, as far as I can see, that all of the billions of complexities in the effects of warming on the material economy have been worked out and are well understood. They largely expunge the natural economy in their calculations, probably because of their lack of pedigree in the field of systems ecology, and insteac focus on pedantics. I say pedantics because it is, by now, well established that human welfare and prosperity is dependent on the natural economy in a wide array of direct and indirect services that emerge from nature. At the same time, nature is exceedingly complex – its virtually impossible to predict how a system functions under fairly stable conditions, and we are well aware that conditions which apply to one system do not necessarily apply to another. Throw a range of anthropogenic stresses into the mix, and things become even more complicated.

    Against this background we are trying to predict the effects of uneven levels of climate change – occurring at vastly different scales in different biogeographical realms – on the stability and and functioning of complex adaptive systems. In truth, it is nothing less than a big experiment on our ecological life-support systems with no replications. And since the changes will be non-linear, we can expect surprises.

    In summary, what we don’t know about the effects of climate change on the biosphere far exceeds what we do know. For saying this, as a scientist with some expertise in the field I get ridiculed by a small but vocal army of ignorant contrarians who argue that humans are not constrained by any natural laws. In spite of vast amounts of evidence to the contrary, they wish to believe in the tooth fairy, and that human wisdom, ingenuity and technology will offset any limitations imposed by nature. This is dangerous talk. And when I find economists and statisticians – in other words people lacking any basic grounding in ecology – arguing that we’ve worked out all of the nuances in predicting the effects of climate change on human civilization (both costs and benefits) I can only shake my head in disbelief. It takes incredible hubris for anyone to argue that we can manage climate change and the global ecological commons given all of the vast number of unknowns. As I have said before, its a big crap shoot, with very nasty outcomes in store if we do not change course.

  28. #28 Rocco
    January 14, 2011

    Wow: If you call someone a denier, they will complain no matter whether it is justified or not (obviously). That is why it is important to be able to point to a clear history of denial, otherwise the “debate” will probably revert to pointless name-calling.

    Jeff Harvey : Actually, if you read some of the impacts work, they kind of admit they have no idea what the real impacts will be. The problem is that this uncertainty does not really make it into the final results (which makes sense, because it can not be estimated yet). Now, this wouldn’t be all that much of an issue in a purely academic discussion, but here we have someone like Lomborg, who comes in, takes it as a done deal, and then goes around lecturing everyone on how irrational they are.

    If anything, the issues raised in this thread indicate that we should perhaps devote more attention to this area instead of some obscure points of paleoclimate statistics and the like.

  29. #29 Jeff Harvey
    January 14, 2011


    Good points. When I debated Lomborg back in 2002, I got this impression as well. His strategy appeared to be “What we don’t know, however large that may be, can be dismissed, so that we should focus on the knowns”. As far as I remember, he even went so far as to tell the audience that the effects of climate change on natural ecosystems had already been calculated and was in the latest (at that time) IPCC draft. Of course, scientists with the relevant expertise would know that these estimates are exceedingly arbitrary, and perhaps even completely useless, given that our understanding of ecosystem functioning, even ignoring the various human-induced stresses to them, is very, very basic.

    This is what annoys me about economnists, and especially those downplaying climate change and its effects. They try to give the impression that they have worked out all of the costs and benefits of warming in their tidy little econometric models, and ignore the vast uncertainties in the process. Its hardly surprising that most of them do not understand even basic ecology. To mask this, they make their models more and more refined, because models projecting outcomes to within a few decimal points give the indication to the lay reader that they are completely on top of the subject. The reality is that they aren’t anywhere close to it, bearing in mind of of the many complexities that are barely understood, and their own lack of pedigree in any of the environmental sciences. I admire economists like Geoffrey Heal who decided to spend an extended period at Stanford University in the Department of Biological Sciences so that he could learn more about the natural economy and its importance in sustaining human civilization. More economists ought to do this.

  30. #30 Wow
    January 14, 2011

    > Wow: If you call someone a denier, they will complain no matter whether it is justified or not (obviously).

    And if someone thinks you’re acting denier-ish, then someone is going to call you a denier, whether it is justified or not (obviously).

  31. #31 Richard Tol
    January 14, 2011

    As I noted before, I was not involved in the ranking of the projects in CC08. Why don’t you look it up?

  32. #32 Majorajam
    January 14, 2011

    Gee Richard, did you also get a doctorate from the Karl Rove school of implausible deniability?

    Maybe it’s just me, but if my work were being paraded around in a highly public manner, bearing my name, and for the purpose of policy advocacy affecting billions of men, women and children, I might have the temerity to look into whether what is being peddled is supported by my work in the first place.

    And if it wasn’t I might have the temerity to very publically make a note of that, and call out the individual, individuals, or institutions that were distorting my work. I might not even continue to associate with the person who had so damaged my credibility and the public debate. But then *I* have some semblance of integrity. And a conscience.

  33. #33 Majorajam
    January 14, 2011

    Wow Rocco! In reference to Tim Worstall, my last post contained the line

    Perhaps, as Rocco noted, I’ve jumped to a conclusion I shouldn’t have.

    If you had in mind a stiffer penance- public flogging?- I’m sorry to disappoint you. In any case, context in which ‘denier’ is so strong as to twist knickers is decidedly distinct from this one. Next time spare the sermon for sunday.

    As to your sentiment that the economics of climate change are more worth looking into than the minutia of high-frequency climate reconstruction statistics, it’s certainly right. But that’s a pretty low bar. The reality is that there’s not much mystery as to what happens when you relax the constraint that manifest uncertainty be assumed away. When you do that, and in light of the empirically *revealed* preferences of Richard’s ostentatiously pious reverence, you’re forced to accept a ‘no doubter’-esque high return on mitigation spending. As Marty Weitzman’s work capably illustrates.

    This is due to the fact that it has been emphatically ‘revealed’ that people will spend a lot to avoid the left hand tail of outcomes (and the left hand tail in this instance, without a shred of hyperbole, is nothing less than cataclysm). As that eventuality gets thick with probability, as it clearly is in this case, it doesn’t matter a lick what’s going on in the remainder of the distribution. And that’s a fact.

    For my money the real action lies in how to organize that in a world where so many powerful interests are so deadset against cooperation in any emissions regime whatsoever. Where vastly complex trade, diplomacy and historical considerations make a workable agreement between developed and emerging countries so complex. Of these matters, the answers are anything but obvious.

    In any case, with regard to the topic at hand, I would expect academics and policy makers to entertain discussions that accept these realities, not least those that grapple with implications for other issues that could be construed as bearing unacceptable risks to our civilization’s existence as a going concern. Models such as Richard Tol’s however, that as a rule assume away everything, are so trite as to forfeit any place at that table. Darts in the hands of Hellen Keller would have a better chance of finding home.

  34. #34 EWI
    January 14, 2011

    @ Tom Curtis, jakerman

    Tol is a master at not answering the question and in general misdirection. His initial response on to questions about his association with the GWPF is a study in itself (there are, apparently, many “areas” of “disagreement” between Tol and the nutters in the GWPF according to Tol, but he alas declines to let us know what these may be) and his defence of Lomborg has been tortured (“he can afford to be more accurate now”).

  35. #35 EWI
    January 14, 2011

    By the way, Tol’s other preoccupation these days is in relentlessly promoting a Covanta incinerator project which the ESRI was (handsomely) commissioned by the collaborating local authority to study, which study alas [met an unfortunate end]( when some basic fact-checking was carried out (and not by the ESRI).

    Our very own AEI. My, how Ireland has joined the big league these days.

  36. #36 Richard Tol
    January 15, 2011

    As you well know, the errors in that particular report have corrected, without affecting the main conclusions.

  37. #37 Bernard J.
    January 15, 2011

    Richard Tol.

    You been asked on a number of occasions now about the real-world bases and justifications for your modelling, and about the factors that you excluded from the same modelling. You’ve also had the fact of this repeated querying pointed out to now on a number of occasions.

    Do you require a posting of all of the links, collectively, so that you can more easily review the questions put to you, and thus more easily and expeditiously answer them? If you’re having some difficulty in attempting an addressing of this material, I am sure that we can all pitch in to help you to start from the basic concepts.

  38. #38 Richard Tol
    January 15, 2011

    There is no point in explaining and discussing a hugely complex issues in comments on a blog.

    A description of the model, the assumptions, and the code can be found at There is also a list of papers there, and another list at my home page (just click on my name).

    I’m perfectly happy to discuss things point by point, initiated by a blog post that sets out the issue.

    Maybe Tim will oblige.

  39. #39 Rocco
    January 15, 2011

    Richard Tol: You know, sometimes, what you do not say is just as important, if not more, then what you do say. We’re done here.

    Wow: Yup.

  40. #40 Bernard J.
    January 15, 2011

    Richard Tol:

    @Bernard There is no point in explaining and discussing a hugely complex issues [sic] in comments on a blog.

    Actually, I would think that a scientifically-oriented blog such as Deltoid would be the perfect medium in which to succinctly summarise and then to discuss the “hugely complex issues” underpinning your models’ assumptions about the impacts of climate change.

    All the more so if your assumptions are ecologically inadequate, because it is quite possible that your target audience in the journals where you publish could well miss the fact that you have over-simplified your modelling to the point of uselessness. It is in exactly a forum such as this where you might have a mix of expertise that can rapidly identify any critically important failings of your assumptions.

    Of course, I can see that this might be undesirable in certain contexts as it might actually harm the both the ouput productivity and the policy consequences of your papers. Conversely, it might actually reinforce the validity of your work, and personally, if I were confident in my modelling I would want to disseminate and explain in as many fora as possible the bases of my calculations. Isn’t that the reason for publishing in the first place?

    A description of the model, the assumptions, and the code can be found at There is also a list of papers there, and another list at my home page (just click on my name).

    See, the thing is, Richard Tol, that you are sending the reader on a long and tedious journey which really should not be necessary. Perhaps it is different in economics compared with science, but I would have expected that even a basic answer to my questions could have been nutted out in a page or so (several at the most if one is not efficent), in a form consisting really of no more than a list of the major ecological, climatological, socialogical and economic assumptions that are included, and another list of those parameters not included.

    In my very personal opinion, your vagueness and hand-waving imply either a lack of confidence in your models, or an inability to concisely summarise your understanding of the scientific parameters underpinning them. Or both.

    Seriously, is there nowhere in the literature – whether ‘professional’ or ‘grey’ – where the essential nuts and bolts* of your models are described in one concise précis? How do expect anyone to give any credence to such models if they are not easily assessible?

    If this task is beyond the ken of one who has himself been publishing for more than a decade in the field, then it might be an interesting and an entertaining exercise to see who can first come up with such a summary on your behalf…

    I guess if we can’t do this the easy way then we will have to do it the hard way. It seems that the stone must be wrung in order obtain the blood. I’m already wading through your entertaining list of papers (perhaps entertaining isn’t the most appropriate word…), although I must say I am quite prepared to cease and desist in my efforts if someone can provide a half decent reason for me to do so.

    Some of the comments above are already persuading me of the futility of this exercise.

    [* Snigger… “nuts and Bolts”. There’s at least the core of a good thread title in that phrase!]

  41. #41 Richard Tol
    January 15, 2011

    Start reading my work. Pick an assumption to discuss. Convince Tim to start a thread, or start your own blog. I will engage under those conditions.

  42. #42 Wow
    January 17, 2011

    > Tol is a master at not answering the question and in general misdirection.

    This is rather like being a master at not playing football. As long as you have no sense of shame, it’s easy to be a master. It’s only when you think you should be able to do better and try that you fail to be a master not-answering-the-question-er.

    Here’s an example:

    > @Bernard Start reading my work. Pick an assumption to discuss

    Which anyone with an oz of decency would have seen that the assumption of what discount rate to use has been raised multiple times in frequent succession.

    A complete lack of ethics and a lack of honour to match means that he manages to not answer the question by bare-faced BS.

    Monckton is good at this one (cf the “can anyone state the value of $something to three decimal places?” then getting the WRONG NUMBER: not a problem for this nut because he has no shame, no honour and no respect for anyone). Same here.

  43. #43 Fred Knell
    January 17, 2011

    Bernard J and wow: when either of you can match Tol in breadth and depth of published peer-reviwed papers in the public domain, then, and only then, can you validly besmirch him the way you do. Instead of gross libels, when you actually can come up with a critique based on any of Tol’s papers are you likely to make a contribution. What’s so hard about that? He has provided links, many available free of charge from his CV at his various employers’ sites.

    Bernard, all you have ever done here or in your life is armwaving. Name any point of substance for improving the human condition you have ever advanced. If you were capable of that, you like Tol would be in the public domain. But you are not, hence your repose here in the last refuge of all true members of Lambert’s First Church of Climate Change.

  44. #44 jakerman
    January 17, 2011

    Fred Knell writes:

    >*Bernard J and wow: when either of you can match Tol in breadth and depth of published peer-reviwed papers in the public domain, then, and only then, can you validly besmirch him the way you do.*

    Do you take the same approach with Climate scientist Fred?

    Or is your argument from authority just hypocritical?

  45. #45 Jeff Harvey
    January 17, 2011

    Fred Knell,

    I CAN match Richard Tol in publications (I have 103) and citations (1851) in peer-reviewed journals and I stand by the questions Bernard and Wow raise. Most improtabntly, how ecologically (in)adequate are the assumptions that are built into models predicting the effects of climate change? This is a crucial point, and I would like to see Richard address it.

    I recall on a Deltoid thread a few years ago Richard downplaying the importance of nature (based on the seminal Costanza et al. study in Nature in 1997) in the material economy. The entire reason Costanza wrote the article was that he was sick and tired of economists dismissing the importance of nature in sustaining human civilization (e.g. nature is worth < 2% of GDP etc.). The fact is that natural systems underpin the material economy; in other words the material economy is a very small component of the natural economy. The article now has 1823 citations in 14 years, or more than 100 per year, making it one of the most cited papers in that time in any related field. Since you appear to know absolutely nothing about this field, Fred Knell, it takes remrkable hubris for you to wade in with your gibberish.

  46. #46 Fred Knell
    January 17, 2011

    jakerman: all my comments re Bernard and wow apply with even greater force to you, a black hole if ever there was one. Name anything constructive – just one – you have ever said, as opposed to gutter sniping. Richard Tol is one of the world’s top ten economists by any measure, and on climate change he is for sure numero uno.

  47. #47 Jeff Harvey
    January 17, 2011


    By the way, Robert Costanza has 200 articles and 6,000 citations plus, which puts him in the big league. And he would ask the same questions that Bernard and I do.

    Lastly, how on Earth can you, of all people, gauge the quality of a researcher or of their work? Because you agree with them? How many articles have you published in the empirical literature? What do you know about the effects of climate change and othert anthropogenic threats on communities, ecosystems, biomes, and on the services that emerge from them?

    I can guess… Um… nil?

  48. #48 Fred Knell
    January 17, 2011

    Jff H: h dr – ” CN mtch Rchrd Tl n pblctns ( hv ) nd cttns () n pr-rvwd jrnls nd stnd b th qstns Brnrd nd Ww rs”. Jff, y r f crs brllnt, bt n nmbr f pblctns nd cttns n th qvlnt f th Rdrs Dgst r f n cnsqnc. ntl y cn shw y hv dvncd mprcll vldtd (.. nn-cntrvrtd) hypthss, nd knw y nvr hv, jst stck t sd Dgst. Fr xmpl, y r rght whn y s “Th fct s tht ntrl systms ndrpn th mtrl cnm” bt qt wrng whn y dd “n thr wrds th mtrl cnm s vr smll cmpnnt f th ntrl cnm”. T b spcfc, d rfr t Jhn Qggn’s pc n th FR td, vlbl b nw t hs blg. f crs ll f r wlth nd wll-bng dpnd n th ntrl cnm, bt r hmn ngnt hs blt n tht t prdc fr mr thn t vr hs r cld n ts wn. D tll wht s th csh (GDP r GNP) vl tht yr “ntrl cnm” prdcs wtht n hmn ntrvntn whtsvr. r d y xpct s t blv yr pst hr ws sll th prdct f th nn-hmn cnm? Th trth s y r vn thckr n ll snss thn vn ww nd Brnrd

  49. #49 Tim Lambert
    January 17, 2011

    Dear Fred, no more trolling on this thread, please.

  50. #50 Richard Tol
    January 17, 2011

    @Jeff Harvey
    I am perfectly happy to discuss my work. However, I will not take responsibility for other people’s work. And I will not summarize 20 years of research in a single comment to a thread about something else entirely.

    If you want to start a thread on the ecological inadequacy of my research, I’d be happy to engage.

  51. #51 Wow
    January 17, 2011

    > Bernard J and wow: when either of you can match Tol in breadth and depth of published peer-reviwed papers in the public domain, then, and only then, can you validly besmirch him the way you do

    Tell Watts that? How about Mad Lord Monckton? Fred Singer? Sen Inholfe?

    Since when have any self-proclaimed skeptics (i.e. deniers) EVER cared about the breadth and depth of papers? Isn’t it all proof of a conspiracy and how the widely publicised paper faked because it supports the consensus (except here the consensus is a financial one, not a physical or environmental one. Spot the opportunity for confirmation bias and fiscal pressure).

  52. #52 Jeff Harvey
    January 17, 2011


    You used the term ‘ecological inadequacies’, not me. My concern is that, like Bjorn Lomborg, you have not studied the field of systems ecology and thus that makes it very hard for you to appreciate the wide array of supporting services that enable our civilization to thrive and persist. These are well discussed in the empirical literature, and in my university lectures I provide 4 examples – the Catskill Mountain Watershed, palm oil pollinators, pest control services in the Caribbean, and the value of sustainable harvesting of tropical ecosystem goods – where supporting (or provisioning) ecosystem services have been valued. As I have pointed out many times, and as you well know, the value of supporting services are externalized in economic price-cost scenarios, meaning we have little idea of their value until they are added or lost. It is also important to point out that there are few technological substitutes for most ecosystem services, such as water purification, climate control, pollination, maintenance of soil fertility, and many others, and even where there are, they are often prohibitively expensive. The trouble is that too many people, like Fred Knell above, see the value of nature purely in terms of how humans can exploit and utilize it it. The biosphere as a life support system does not factor into many people’s appreciation of our utter dependence on nature.

    The crux of the matter is I would like to ask you how many ecologists and systems biologists you have discussed the effects of climate change with, how much of their work you have read, and how much your models of climate change effects take into account the threat it poses to supporting services. Have you attended any international conferences e.g. the annual ESA meeting, where these issues are discussed and debated? If you can also suggest some of your literarture that I should read that would enlighten me, I would be happy to do so.

    I’d also be glad to engage in a discussion with you about what components of our ecological systems act as ‘life support’ and how climate change threatens them. If Tim creates and appropriate thread, I’d be happy to contibute to it.

  53. #53 Jeff Harvey
    January 17, 2011

    An example of the breadth of the topic:

    Type in the words ‘climate change and biodiversity’ into the Web of Science search engine and there are 2,765 hits; type in ‘climate change and extinction’ and there are 1374 hits; type in ‘climatye change and ecosystem services’ and there are 450 hits; type in ‘climate change and ecosystem functioning’ and there are 322 hits.

    In other words there are a lot of studies. Many suggest dramatic declines in the populations of some species or interaction networks, or in the health and vitality of ecosystems in response to warming if it continues at current rates. And of course these processes will rebound on society to some extent. These are the effects that must be factored in.

    I was cursorily glancing through your Copenhagen Conseusus article, Richard, entitled “An analysis of mitgation as a response to climate change”(2009) and on page 9 you wrote this: “The initial benefits rise partly because more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reduces ‘water stress’ in plants and makes them grow faster”(from Long et al., 2006, Science).

    This is the kind of flippant argument, if I may say so, that needs a response. First, of all, I do not think that the intention of the author’s article, entitled, “Food for Thought: Lower than expected crop yield simulation with rising C02 concentrations” was to promote the benefits of warming for increased plant growth rates. That aside, your statement completely ignores the fact that (1) the ecology and biochemistry of faster growing plants may change dramatically owing to higher C02 regimes and warmer temperatures; (2) that plant fitness is integrally correlated with interactions with local communities of pollinators and other organisms; (3) the effects of changes in plant biology on interactions with pathogens and herbivores, as well as there natural enemies; (4) the effects of warming on soil biota including both mutualists and antagonists.

    I and several others here have dealt with the overly simple arguments that ‘more C02 = bigger plants = net benefits” because these predictions ignore a avst array of often complex interactions in ecological communities that ultimately determine plant growth and fitness. Changes in N and C-based chemical plant defenses will have consequences across food chains that interact with plants. Changes in stoichiometry up the food chain will also occur, as a result of atmospheric changes in C02.

    Under normal circumstances these changes might be minor, but these are not ‘normal circumstances’. The rate of change of temperature and atmospheric C02 is certainly much higher than in tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, and is set against a backdrop of a suite of other human-induced changes in natural systems. The challenge is to link local-scale process with emergent properties at the scale of ecosystems and biomes. But simple remarks like ‘plants will grow faster’ ignores a wealth of complex non-linear processes that determine exactly how plants and the communities in which they grow will respond to warming and changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

    Many of the studies I cite are attempting to determine if it is possible to make simple linear extrapolations of climate warming on primary producers and higher trophic levels. This has been the focus of research by scientists like Rick Lindroth, and is the kind of topical research being discussed at conferences and workshops. Later this year I will be a keynote speaker at a workshop on plant-insect interactions, in which I will discuss invasive plants and insects, many of which are thriving in a warming world and which are a threat to native communities.

  54. #54 Richard Tol
    January 17, 2011

    I know enough about ecology to know that I know very little about ecology — while my models do not exhaust what little I do know.

  55. #55 pough
    January 17, 2011

    Tell Watts that? How about Mad Lord Monckton? Fred Singer? Sen Inholfe?

    Wow, all of those people use Real-Seeming Names. That’s all the authority they need.

  56. #56 jakerman
    January 17, 2011

    Fred Knell invites me:

    >*Name anything constructive – just one – you have ever said*

    I don’t need to look very far Fred, just back to the [last post]( were I provided the service of exposing both the fallacious nature of your argument and the hypocrisy of it.

    Pity you didn’t digest my point, and instead repeated your erroneous and inconsistent logic.

  57. #57 jakerman
    January 17, 2011

    Tol writes:

    >*I am perfectly happy to discuss my work. However, I will not take responsibility for other people’s work.*

    Richard this thread is on your work and its misuse. Who is taking responsibility for your work being misused in the Copenhagen Consensus ranking?

    Do you dispute your work’s misuse? Yohe says you (“you”, as in Yohe’s use of “we”) [knowingly submitted]( your work with higher discount rate in full knowledge that it was to be used in the Copenhagen Consensus ranking.

    >*We chose 5% falling to 4% because it ran between the 3% and 6% choices that the rules offered.*

    Do you share Yohe’s interpretation? Did you misunderstand the ranking system being used?

  58. #58 Eli Rabett
    January 17, 2011

    You appear to know very little about reality Richard. Your estimate of the cost of losing 99% of the species on earth being $250 per head. Shall we call that the great FUND die off?

  59. #59 P. Lewis
    January 17, 2011

    John Donnne, at this point, might well have said

    …ask not for whom the Knell trolls, it’s Tol for he

  60. #60 jakerman
    January 17, 2011

    The bell is Tolling for Richard over at Eli’s. And if anyone is wondering, [Eli’s post]( is well worth the read.

  61. #61 Bernard J.
    January 18, 2011
  62. #62 Bernard J.
    January 18, 2011

    Bernard, all you have ever done here or in your life is armwaving.

    You have obviously never read my somewhat extensive corrections of Tim Curtin, one of my favourite scientific inepts. There is rather a large body of record-straightening just there. I also wasted quite a lot of time trying to elicit some semblance of a rational and objective thought process, in Wormtongue’s skull, that might result in his garnering of an understanding of basic science and statistics. And there have been many drive-by trolls that have copped it, hopefully to their subsequent educational betterment, so I don’t think that my time has been completely for naught.

    As to what I do in my “life”, you have not the merest glimmer of an idea about what I have achieved, so it is you, rather, who should stop waving his arms.

    Name any point of substance for improving the human condition you have ever advanced. If you were capable of that, you like Tol would be in the public domain. But you are not, hence your repose here in the last refuge of all true members of Lambert’s First Church of Climate Change.

    What I do away from this blog is not at all relevant, as I am not using my works to make any point in the context of this thread, other than to the extent that my ecological understanding helps me to identify shortcomings in Tol’s ecological conclusions. Similarly, if my more general scientific understanding helps me to identify Tol’s general scientific shortcoming in his models, then it’s relevant to that extent, but the outlining of it need not be paraded here as a 10 page CV.

    What matters is whether any of the problems that I have with Tol’s work are valid, and whether he is able to address them. To this end my background itself is irrelevant.

    And for your information I am in the public domain. This is why I maintain my semi-anonymity here – I’ve suffered at the hands of your ilk in the past, and I have no need to incur the anger and harrassment of your sort again in the process of simply arriving at the truth of matters.

    And what on earth do you mean, “gross libels”? If you’re referring to:

    In my very personal opinion, your vagueness and hand-waving imply either a lack of confidence in your models, or an inability to concisely summarise your understanding of the scientific parameters underpinning them. Or both.

    then I’d love to have detailed how this constitutes “gross libel”.

    One thing that I think that you need to understand is that I am not actually trying to destroy Richard Tol. I am very interested to see how robust his modelling actually is (or isn’t…), and whether it can be usefully improved. It is in Tol’s interest to produce and to publish the most reliable modelling that he is able to, and if feedback here can improve his work, then he and everyone else here should welcome the scrutiny of its assumptions and its operating parameters.

  63. #63 Richard Tol
    January 18, 2011

    That is the discount rate we used in this particular study.

  64. #64 jakerman
    January 18, 2011

    To writes:

    >*@Eli That is the discount rate we used in this particular study.*

    So you don’t disagree with Eli’s [gutting of your FUND model](

  65. #65 Richard Tol
    January 18, 2011

    Tim did not (yet) take up my offer, but Eli did:

  66. #66 Richard Tol
    January 18, 2011

    You did not libel me in any way.

    I cannot succinctly summarise 20 years of research and 176 papers. You may think that is a failure on my part, but I would see that as a sign that my research has progressed over the years and my papers are not repetitive.

    I’m happy to engage in discussions on specific parts of my research. Eli started the ball rolling on ecosystem valuation.

  67. #67 Bart Verheggen
    January 18, 2011

    Bernard’s reply to Richard, that a blog is a good medium for discussing the complexities, makes sense, but it is also somewhat similar to what is often said on “skeptic” blogs about climate scientists: “Come and let us tear your work apart; it can only improve as a result. Your refusal to do so will be seen as admitting the poor quality of your work”.

    It appeals to those on the same side of the fence, but looking at it from some distance also shows the inevitable problems. Climate scientists understandably are loath to disucss the ins and outs of their research at “skeptical” blogs, because with such animosity, what’s there to gain?

    I’m fully aware that all blogs are not created equal, but the point is how does the blog population view the respective researcher and vice versa. From that perspective, I think there is at least some equivalence.

  68. #68 Jeff Harvey
    January 18, 2011


    I appreciate your honesty. Saying that, why don’t you contact me when you are next in Holland at the Vrije Universiteit so that we can sit down and discuss some of these ideas? This might even make a fruitful collaboration, as it is my opinion that ecologists and economsists ought to work together more closely.

    I would also like to know if Eli is correct – did you make this estimate? *Your estimate of the cost of losing 99% of the species on earth being $250 per head*

    Of course the cost would be more than that – it would be the extinction of the human species, no ifs or buts. Not only ecosystem services, but of course ecosystem functions hinge on the interplay involving trillions of individuals, billions of populations, millions of species and food webs. As we reduce diversityy, we reduce functional redundancy – whereby certain species fulfill critical roles – thus making systems more prone to collapse.

    Richard, have you read any of the literature by Gretchen Daily and colleagues at Stanford University? I can certainly suggest some ecological literature where servcies are valuated.

  69. #69 Wow
    January 18, 2011

    > Climate scientists understandably are loath to disucss the ins and outs of their research at “skeptical” blogs, because with such animosity, what’s there to gain?

    The problem with putting more work in discussion on a denier blog is that the audience there DO NOT CARE about accuracy. I forget the quoter but “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas” is OK unless the person doesn’t care about the quality. Because the best way to have lots of ideas is to have lots of BAD ones. You don’t have to sweat comprehension then.

    It’s easier to say “the warming isn’t from CO2, it’s from the sun” than to explain why that’s wrong.

    It isn’t the venue, it’s the clientele.

    And no “skeptic” would think of gainsaying the idiocies of another in their pursuit of denial of human effects on the climate.

  70. #70 Wow
    January 18, 2011

    > I cannot succinctly summarise 20 years of research and 176 papers.

    Wow. You’ve been working on this one project for 20 years and made 176 papers doing it?!?!?!

    Dick, in furtherance of your goal to NEVER answer a question, what do you say to the complaint against the climate scientists (re: investigation into CRU and the Hockey Stick(s)) that they need to have specialists in statistics to work on the statistics?

    I would infer that you disagree since you don’t seem to feel it necessary to have any specialists for the areas outside your own narrow research field.

  71. #71 Wow
    January 18, 2011

    > Wow, all of those people use Real-Seeming Names. That’s all the authority they need.

    > Posted by: pough

    And the depth of the papers is the depth of those papers these intellectual minnows wipe their arses with?

    Still doesn’t help Fred since Sen Inholfe has ZERO papers in climate yet wants to put them in jail, dismissing the depth and breadth of the papers produced by these scientists and yet Fred doesn’t care.

    To Fred and Inholfe, the environment is THE ENEMY and MUST be destroyed.

  72. #72 Bernard J.
    January 18, 2011

    Richard Tol.

    I appreciate your reply at #166. Whilst I have been a little curt in places in the latter of my comments, I have tried to retain a semblance of politeness.

    It’s not a secret that I have grave reservations about the assumptions of your models, and conversely about the absence of other assumptions; however, I recognise that you are at least engaging to an extent. I hope that you might at some point consider how you might give a cogent summary of the inputs included in and excluded from your models, but one bridge at a time, I guess…

    Bart, I do take [your point](, although I think that the conspicuous difference here is that those challenging Richard Tol actually have an understanding of the disciplines of science from which Tol’s assumptions are drawn. In the denialist versus science charades this level of engagement does not occur, at least from the side of thse who deny the physics of climatology.

    Further, I would hope that boths sides in the discussion of Tol’s work here would avoid the logical fallies, misrepresentations, distortions, and outright lying that characterises the babble that passes for denialist discussion on Blogs That Must Not Be Named.

  73. #73 Richard Tol
    January 18, 2011

    Eli misread the equations. $250/person/year would be the cost of losing an additional species when 99% are lost already.

  74. #74 jakerman
    January 18, 2011

    >*$250/person/year would be the cost of losing an additional species when 99% are lost already.*

    Tol, how much does your models assume is the cost (WTP) for the loss of the first 99% of species?

  75. #75 Jeff Harvey
    January 18, 2011


    If the planet had already lost 99% of species, then its almost certain that we would be among them. In fact, my guess is that, in a sequence of extinction, humans would go well before many of the other 99%.

    This is because the 99% figure would certainly include most pollinators, and perhaps many soil biota that perform critical functions in maintaining a healthy soil environment. Entire ecosystems would collapse as the primary producers disappear, and with them higher trophic levels dependent on them.

    We can discuss this when I meet you in Amsterdam.

  76. #76 Richard Tol
    January 18, 2011

    The value is $50/rich person/year per species when there are 14,000,000 species. This goes up to $250/rp/yr per species when there are 140,000 species.

    Note that $250 is by Eli. I did not check his math.

  77. #77 jakerman
    January 18, 2011

    Tol, roughtly if we use $150 x 99% x 14 million we’d get approx $2Billion/person/in one year, or $50 million/person/year over 40 years.

    Is that roughly what you say?

  78. #78 Jeff Harvey
    January 18, 2011


    Where do you get 14,000,000 species from? Is this an arbitrary figure? There may be 5 million or 80 million extant species, depending on whom you talk to.

    And you must know that some are clearly more important than others. Where do ecosystem services fit into your models? On what criteria do you value a species?

  79. #79 Richard Tol
    January 18, 2011

    14 mln is somewhere in the middle of the range of published estimates. I forget the exact source.

  80. #80 Chris S.
    January 19, 2011

    “The value is $50/rich person/year per species when there are 14,000,000 species. This goes up to $250/rp/yr per species when there are 140,000 species.”

    I find this interesting, especially when considering the cost put on invasive species to UK agriculture by Vila et al (2010) Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 8: 135–144* who state crop losses in the United Kingdom alone due to alien arthropods are ~ €2.8 billion (about $3.7 billion) per annum.


  81. #81 AssemblyLinehuman
    January 21, 2011

    I wonder if the same cost benefit analysis could be done to justify genocide. There is a HUGE flaw with humanity, if it doesn’t see a problem with this line of reasoning. Doing something because it is RIGHT should overrule doing something because it is economically suitable.

    I couldn’t care less for the fate of a species which thinks like this.

    People make me sick.

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