No less disturbing than the drift into boosterism in the ESRI’s forecasts are the political activities of Richard Tol in the climate field, activities that blur uncomfortably and insidiously into his research work.
Tol has engaged in a long-term collaboration with Bjørn Lomborg, himself the subject of a detailed critique by Howard Friel titled ‘The Lomborg Deception’ and categorised by its publisher, Yale University Press, under the subject-heading of “Fraud in Science”.
Lomborg operates the Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) which, in spite of its title, has served solely as a vehicle for the political views of its leader. The Copenhagen Consensus projects involve Lomborg hand-picking researchers, with Tol a favourite, to engage in rigged research projects which Lomborg further distorts beyond the point of fraud to oppose any reduction in fossil fuel use.
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 Kåre 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.
Subsequently, Lomborg and Yohe had a spectacular falling out. In a bruising exchange in the pages of the Guardian, Yohe accused Lomborg of “misrepresenting our findings thanks to a highly selective memory”. The exchange was temporarily concluded by a joint article where Lomborg and Yohe agreed that the reason CCC climate proposals “failed the cost-benefit test … could be traced to faulty design”. Given that the designs were Lomborg’s own, this was a humiliating admission.
He also pals around with Ian Plimer, a proponent of Manuel's "Iron Sun" theory.