Richard Tol

Climate economist, unafraid of a fight

Tol is a Professor of economics at the University of Sussex, specialising in energy economics with a particular interest in climate change. He’s by no means a climate sceptic, but has long caused discomfort for advocates of action on climate change.

Tol caused particular controversy this spring when his accusations that the IPCC were alarmist received a large quantity of media coverage including on the BBC. Tol has been involved with the IPCC since 1994, in a variety of roles and on a range of topics, but withdrew from a key group last September citing concerns that it was pushing alarm over climate change above a line he favoured, arguing that the more worrying impacts of climate change are largely symptoms of mismanagement. A post on his personal blog in April outlined this experience, including how he felt it reflected issues of the structural problems of the IPCC (a topic he has written about before). Tol’s also known for arguing climate change will have beneficiaries, and most recently provoked fights with a paper critiquing the claim a 97% consensus in the peer-reviewed climate literature.

The increasing prominence of Tol in the climate debate is perhaps a sign that discussions have shifted from ‘is it happening?’ to other fights over the whats, ifs and how we deal with it.