Tags: Climate change | IPCC

Scientist Resigns Over 'Alarmist' Tone of UN Climate-Change Report

By    |   Thursday, 27 March 2014 11:55 PM EDT

An author of a draft U.N. report on climate change says he has withdrawn from the project, describing it as "alarmist" and “apocalyptic” in its portrayal of the possible consequences.

Richard Tol – a professor of economics at Sussex University in Britain who worked on part of a major forthcoming report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC –  said he quit because the tone  “became too alarmist.”

Tol’s withdrawal is bad news for the IPCC, which is still reeling from the fallout over its  2007 report on climate change which came under fire from right and left for factual errors that raised questions about its credibility.   

Reuters reported Thursday that the final draft of the new report asserts that warming will slow economic growth and disrupt food supplies and may already be causing  irreversible damage to coral reefs and the Arctic region. 

Tol – who served as a coordinating lead author of a sub-chapter of the report covering the   economics of warming – said the report played down the potential economic benefits that could come from small temperature increases.

For example, less frigid winters might mean that fewer elderly people will die from weather-related illnesses, and that crop growth would be improved in some regions of the world.

"It is pretty…obvious that there are positive impacts of climate change, even though we are not always allowed to talk about them," Tol said. 

While Tol played a key role in drafting the IPCC report’s summary for policymakers, he recently requested that his name be removed, the Daily Mail reported.

Tol explained that the first draft said the risks were manageable if “we get our act together.” But this careful, measured tone “has completely disappeared from the draft now, which is all about the impacts of climate change and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” 

“You have a very silly statement in the draft summary that says that people who live in war-torn countries are more vulnerable to climate change, which is undoubtedly true,” Tol told the BBC.

But “if you ask people in Syria whether they are more concerned with chemical weapons or climate change, I think they would pick chemical weapons – [the statement] is just silliness,” he added.

According to the IPCC report summary, a 4.5 degree Fahrenheit warming would cut world economic income by as little as 0.2 percent or as much as two percent a year.

One expert blasted Tol and criticized his chapter of the new IPCC report, saying he had exaggerated  the potential  benefits from warming.

"Of the 19 studies he surveyed, only one shows net positive benefits from warming. And it's the one he wrote," said Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Unit on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

Tol’s withdrawal and claims that the IPCC is exaggerating the challenges of warming are particularly sensitive subjects in the wake of the panel’s 2007 report, which contained embarrassing errors.

The report exaggerated the percentage of the Netherlands that is below sea level, claiming it comprised 55 percent of the country, even though the actual figure is closer to 20 percent.

According to the Associated Press, that  report contained “five glaring errors” in a single paragraph suggesting that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035. The actual data indicated that this event would not occur until 2350 – which was apparently transposed as 2035.

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An author of a draft U.N. report on climate change says he has withdrawn from the project, describing it as "alarmist" and “apocalyptic” in its portrayal of the possible consequences.
Climate change,IPCC
Thursday, 27 March 2014 11:55 PM
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