In previous post I mentioned that it was quite remarkable that not only Tol’s views were published, but also were published without the need for a reply. This was true in the online version of the article, but a day later it was also printed in the paper version of the newspaper and it had a (rather short) reply from the policy coordinator of Bond Beter Leefmilieu.
There was however an intriguing common theme in this reply. Let’s look at it one by one (all quotes were translated from Dutch):
Tol is an economist who believes that money is the only thing that matters.
I don’t know Tol personally, but from his writings I don’t share that impression. Of course it might be true, but it has nothing to do with any of the arguments that Tol presented.
He comes to conclusions that differs from common sense
I have to firmly disagree with this one. About seven years ago, I also believed that the climate change issue and its proposed solutions, were common sense. Looking back, this was because I only got to see one side of the story which gave no other explanation. But when we focus on what we effectively know (not assume, suppose, model, predict, expect, speculate,…), then the global warming issue doesn’t make any sense at all.
But that is no reaction on any of Tol’s arguments.
and [differs from] the consensus among climate scientists
Yeah, the consensus of the scientists. I also believed in that one, until I realized what the consensus was exactly about. There is certainly a consensus that the Earth is warming and that humans have some contribution in it. Whether human emissions is primary cause or what the effect is of those emission on the complex system that is our climate, is not so sure at all: this “consensus” is counted by polling the opinion of scientists or classifying publications. Seems subjective to me. Which shows there is no solid evidence to begin with. If there was, then a poll would not even be necessary. Finally, whether that human part of the warming is dangerous or not, is in the eye of the beholder.
Having a consensus is fine, but as history shows, that doesn’t guarantee it is true. The search for truth doesn’t work via the consensus, but who has the best arguments. That is why discussion stays necessary.
Again this reply has nothing to do with the arguments of Tol.
and [differs from the consensus of] world leaders: climate change is one of the biggest threats ever.
I am not impressed by this one. Those world leaders have this information from someone else and it might be that they are informed in a one-sided way. There are many reasons why the world leaders would come to this consensus and for sure it is not for scientific reasons (none of those world leaders is doing scientific research on global warming). In the best case they agreed on the basic of the authority of a group of scientists.
But also nothing to do with Tol’s argument.
These risks can not just explained in lost lives.
That might of course be true, but it must be quite some argument that is more important than four million deaths per year now.
The way he compares risks with other problems is misleading.
Aha, now he is finally tackling one of the arguments of Tol. A pity he doesn’t explain which one. If it is about the comparison with temperatures/sea level rise in our daily live, then I think he would have a point. But I don’t think he meant that. A temperature increase from 6 am until 12 am is probably not the “problem” he is talking about.
If it is about the comparison with those who are killed by (real) pollution now in comparison with those that might be killed in a century from now, which I suppose it is, then I doubt he has a point. A pity he didn’t explain what he was talking about. I also searched their website, but didn’t found anything about this article.
More, it isn’t an or-or story: the fight against climate change is good for the economy, the quality of life and fights poverty. This is shown by eminent economists as Nicolas Stern.
Nice. Now we have two “eminent” economists who tell two entirely different things.
That the fight against climate change is good for the economy would really surprise me. Favoring economically non competitive, intermittent energy sources in continuous working grids is not a cheap solution. That is what we see happening in reality. We invested an incredible amount of money on wind, solar and biomass. In Flanders alone we pay more than one billion per year on subsidies for onshore wind, solar and biomass. For just a couple percent extra in our electricity supply (that is able to disrupt our grid). Those subsidized energy sources meant that other sources were not competitive anymore and therefor no investments were made, although there were desperately needed to replace our aging energy plants and also needed to deliver power when there was no sun or wind. This meant we were structurally dependent on (expensive) power from abroad. So I am at a loss why increasing energy prices, an inability to produce enough for our own needs, discouraging investments in energy sources that could produce our energy much more efficiently and importing expensive energy from abroad, is good for the economy. I can understand though that one sector will fare very well. For example, 2/3 of the profits of offshore wind comes from subsidies from our government, not from the product they sell. I am not really sure whether that is a “sustainable” situation.
That the fight against climate change fights poverty is also not what we see in reality. If energy prices go up because of a higher share of expensive energy, it will be the poor who suffer the most. Even if it true that we can adjust climate with the CO2 knob, then lowering temperatures means people in our regions will need more energy to keep their houses warm and this will add to the energy bill. That would be a double dip for the poor.
I agree with Tol that if we want to fight poverty, we need to put money in exactly that, not in a problem that might or might not be an issue for our grandchildren. The money used in projects that might or might not solve a future problem, can’t be used for other problems that we are facing today.
Nothing to do with the arguments of Tol though.
Tol is member of a group of doubt sowers (GWPF) of which has recently revealed that some of their members receive money from the oil industry.
Indeed, Tol is a member of GWPF and it is entirely possible that some members of the GWPF receive money from the oil industry. Even if that would be relevant, it doesn’t say that Tol did. By the way, the oil industry funds so many organizations, even environmental ones. I remember that an oil company was sponsoring COP15, are they then also suspect?
Yep, nothing to do with any of the actual arguments of Tol. He is obviously playing the man, not the arguments. Even when he would have valid reasons to attack at least two of the arguments. I noticed about 27 arguments in the article, yet maybe one was probably referred to and if it is, it is not even clear which one. It would be much more interesting that the arguments were countered and the best arguments could win. Now we don’t know if there even are arguments to counter Tol’s arguments and which these are. Now it just seemed to be defending the moral high ground.