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Economics & Finance - BLOG

Is Refusing to Fight Climate Change Unethical?

Theo Vermaelen, INSEAD Professor of Finance |

Commentators say those not following the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are unethical. I disagree.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a new report predicting that climate change is set to inflict “severe, widespread and irreversible impacts” on the world unless drastic action is taken on reducing carbon emissions. According to the report, the unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100. So, oil producing countries and oil companies should pay attention: adapt or disappear.

As usual, after every report, the media pour scorn on the “climate change deniers”. In a recent editorial in the Financial Times, “An unethical bet in the climate casino, Martin Wolf, lead economics editor, elevates this criticism to a new level by arguing that not fighting climate change is unethical because we have the ethical obligation to leave future generations with a better world than we have today. However, it is not obvious that my children are better off if I have to pay higher taxes to finance the 180 billion euro subsidies that the European Commission plans to spend on climate change initiatives during the next five years. It is also likely that future generations will suffer from the lack of competitiveness which results from higher energy costs as a result of the European Commission’s policies.

Finally the 826 member organisations of the European Platform against Wind Farms (EPAW) point out that that by trying to fight one externality (climate change) wind turbines create others. The organisation points to the destruction of flora, fauna, landscapes and human health as a result of their presence. So it is not obvious that our children will be living in a better world if we follow the prescriptions of the IPCC so I personally don’t believe I am unethical if I oppose the IPCC’s agenda.

Flawed logic

Talking about ethics, it is highly unethical to publish a report warning of such severity when the IPCC is fully aware that there has been no statistically significant warming during the last 18 years. This fact is admitted in the report but dismissed because the period is too short. Although this period may be short, it is an “out of sample” predictive period, unlike the data from the 20th century which are used to estimate the parameters of the climate prediction models. A science that arguably can’t predict should not be used to justify massive government intervention in the economy. Ironically in the previous (2007) report (page 12 of the summary for policy makers) it is stated that:

“Since IPPC’s first report in 1990, assessed projections have suggested global average temperature increases between about 0.15 and 0.3 degrees per decade for 1990 to 2005. This can now be observed with observed values of about 0.2 degrees per decade, strengthening confidence in near term projections.”

So when data support climate alarmism, a 15-year horizon is not too short.  In the meantime climate scientists have been busy justifying this pause in global warming by dozens of “explanations”. But this is not different from admitting that global climate is driven by so many factors that it is futile to attempt to control it.  It may then be as likely that we will enter a period of global cooling as is now predicted by numerous scientists.  

Furthermore, I question whether the IPCC represents the opinion of 99 percent of climate scientists. The IPCC is an intergovernmental organisation where the final summary for policy makers is approved and negotiated by politicians. There are numerous scientists who disagree with the IPCC conclusions. In 2010, a 321-page report endorsed by more than 1,000 dissenting scientists was presented at the Climate Change conference in Cancún, a much larger number than the 52 scientists who authored the 2007 alarmist report. Dissidents include previous IPCC scientists and IPCC lead authors such as Professor Richard Tol who created quite a stir by complaining on his website that lead authors of IPCC reports are chosen not on the basis of academic quality but on the basis of political colour. If the IPCC is controlled by politicians then is it obvious that they can’t be objective as they painted themselves in a corner.

Admitting today that the science is flawed would boil down to admitting to a huge waste of taxpayer’s money. The anger of the public at large against the political class would be unprecedented. Unlike the taxpayer’s money to bail out banks during the financial crisis, this money is not likely to be recovered. Indeed the U.S. Treasury reported in January 2014 that essentially 100 percent of all the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money has been recovered through dividends, interest payments and repayments of capital.  Alternative energy companies are less likely to be able to reimburse the hundreds of billions of subsidies as they are not sustainable without subsidies.

A final ethical flaw is the lack of objectivity of the mainstream media who don’t question the conclusions of the IPCC, treating it as George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.  The role of an independent press should be to protect the public against political manipulation and attacks on its fundamental freedoms. While it is true that thanks to the Internet we now can get alternative views, for example, via websites that publish research by dissident scientists, such as climatedepot.com, the fact remains that most people attach a larger credibility to mainstream media than to the Internet.  Considering the quality of climate change reporting, especially in Europe, this credibility is not justified.

Theo Vermaelen is a Professor of Finance at INSEAD and the UBS Chair in Investment Banking, endowed in memoriam Henry Grunfeld. He is also the programme director of the Advanced International Corporate Finance programme, one of INSEAD’s executive development programmes.

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Bill Butler,

The reason that the phrases “Anti-science” and ”Global Warming Deniers” are used is that the “Anti-science Deniers” ignore demonstrable evidence, and fabricate stories and “facts” that are not true.

For example, the claim
“there has been no statistically significant warming during the last 18 years”
is NOT true.

Despite the fantasies of Global Warming Deniers, the earth continues to warm at the rate of 4 Hiroshima atomic bombs per second – running 24/7 - including the years from 1998 to present.
This measured/observed warming rate is via the Argo buoy system. http://www.argo.ucsd.edu/About_Argo.html

2005 was warmer than any previous year. Then 2010 broke the 2005 record. And 2014 is on track to beat the 2010 record. Data at:
NOAA/National Climate Data Center

“The most recent 12-month period, November 2013–October 2014, broke the record (set just last month) for the all-time warmest 12-month period in the 135-year period of record”
NOAA/National Climate Data Center

2012 was the warmest year on record for the United States.

Sea level continues to rise due to thermal expansion and glacial melting. The rate of sea level rise has quadrupled since the 1870 to 1924 period.
Columbia University

“So-called "nuisance flooding" -- which causes public inconveniences such as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm drains, and compromised infrastructure -- has increased on all three U.S. coasts, between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s”

Glaciers continue to melt, and the rate of melting has accelerated since 1998.
World Glacier Monitoring Service

Ocean heating has accelerated sharply since 1998. (Note: Over 90% of Global Warming ends up heating the oceans.)
Graph at:
Full peer reviewed paper at:
Up to date info at:
NOAA/National Oceanographic Data Center
http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/ (click on “2”)

Finally, temperature anomalies at all 3 primary temperature databases and the UAH satellite observations are currently setting new record highs. (Updated thru Oct. 2014)


The actual observations show that global warming didn’t stop in 1998. What is happening is that a few Global Warming Deniers fabricated a story, and the other members of the Global Warming Denier cult continue to demonstrate their willful ignorance by repeating the same false story.

More at:

Theo Vermaelen,

Dear Bill

For evidence on the 18-year pause in global warming please check the satellite data on the RSS website ( not a right-wing blog subsidized by the oil industry) at http://www.remss.com. As a result, explaining the 18 year hiatus has become the hottest research topic in climate science.

The fact that something has gone up (say sea levels) does not prove that humans are responsible. As you point out, sea levels always have been rising (at least since 1870) and I am not convinced that driving electric cars and getting my energy from wind turbines is going to stop it.

The nail in the coffin of the man-made global warming theory has always been the medieval warming period. The first IPCC report of 1990 contained a graph that showed that it was actually warmer in the middle ages than today. However, the evidence was dismissed as a local Northern European phenomenon, not a global one and then subsequently "replaced" by Michael Mann's hockey stick graph. However, after the climategate scandal, the hockey stick has been discredited and new research shows that the medieval warming period was global, not European ( http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/global_medieval_warm_period.pdf only.)

So the evidence seems to be more consistent with the hypothesis that climate change is driven by forces outside our control. So we should spend time, energy and money to fight real threats, not imaginary ones.


Mike Haseler,

Is causing more of the 37,000 people who die in the winter months to die from fuel poverty ethical?

Connor Barry,

Dear Professor Vermaelen,

Much as I enjoyed ACF and listening to your lecture on the areas you have a basic knowledge of, I'm surprised when you stray into areas that you neither publish in, nor have an empirical grasp of, that you need reminding of the basic academic principle of sourcing your research from reliable sources. Take the blog you advocate Climate Depot, the "website that publishes research from dissenting scientists". Here's another blog that publishes research from dissenting scientists: http://www.ufoevidence.org/ - I'm not likely to run out and look for ET to land based on its findings! Or another organisation which publishes information try to reduce the scientific link between smoking and cancer: http://heartland.org/ideas/smokers-rights. Turns out they're sponsored by the Tobacco industry, so probably not a reliable source. Ooops - the same organisation receives huge funding from the fossil fuel industry, and surprise surprise is pumping out exactly the same misinformation on climate change as you quote in your article. Misinformation not based on peer reviewed empirical research, but based on cherry picking data, weasel words and using the complexity of natural science to confuse, and delay. Please, dear Professor, do try to reference information from reliable sources in future.

In ethics, uninformed laypersons, without intellectual prowess, academic formation or a platform from which to speak can perhaps be held to a lower level of accountability. Those, like you Theo, with not just high intelligence but a deep familiarity of the academic difference between hearsay and published research must hold yourself to a higher standard.

"Knowledge" is what this INSEAD blog is supposed to disseminate: facts, and information based on the research and scholarship of INSEAD's community. With respect, your article is the antithesis of the scholarship and knowledge that you normally bring to bear in your academic life.

Dealing firstly with the specific factual misrepresentations in your article:

1. : Your careful wording as it stands is correct - the problem is your inference that the IPCC and its reporting are political. That inference is completely false - the full report, published over the past 18 months contained 1.4 million words, summarised the findings of 9200 scientific publications over the previous 150 years of maturing scientific research, and had over 800 scientific authors and editors from 39 countries, over half of whom had not been involved in a previous report. The entire report was meticulously peer reviewed: almost 55,000 comments were incorporated. Not one politician was either involved in or had a say over any of the main 1.4m word report.

Governments globally must unanimously approve the wording of the summary of the main report for policy makers, however under the governance framework, they have no capacity to introduce evidence which is not in the published science.

2. . Please provide a credible source for your information - there were 676 lead and contributory authors of the report. It summarised the findings of over 6000 published scientific articles. In case you doubt me, please find a useful list of the abstracts of all 6000 here: http://www.zvon.org/eco/ipcc/ar4/index.html#r_1_1 I doubt you'll find many that substantiate the doubt you have implied exists.

4. . Might I ask what specific conclusions the 1000 dissenting scientists disagree with? Based on what empirical evidence? Was the report published in a respected journal for peer review? Who published the report - oh! Marc Marano, a US non-scientist republican political activist who writes a blog dening any causation between human activities and climate change, and surprise surprise, is sponsored largely by oil money. Is it not hypocritical to say the IPCC is political, and therefore not to be trusted, only to advocate listening to someone who clearly is political 2 paragraphs later? Is this non-scientist likely to be a reliable source of empirical information? As you will be aware, a consensus is broad agreement of empirical evidence, not a show of hands.

And for the record, another factual error, Richard Tol was not on your list of dissenting scientists – a fact laid out even by the blog you cited.

The most common misrepresentation of the scientific evidence today. Why 18 years? Why not 20 or 15? Would it have something to do with the fact that you are cherry picking 1998, a year with the largest El Nino forcing in recorded history as your starting point, ignoring other natural variabilities, looking only at one limited data set of surface air temperatures and ignoring shallow and deep sea temperatures, glacial melting, and polar icecap data, ocean acidification data, not to mention a host of independently corroborating biological indicators, when the science has consistently said that trends can be established with statistical significance over periods of > 30 years? Will the fact that 2014 will most likely be the hottest year on record move the ideological dial for you? Or what information from what source will be enough to change your mind?

6.< We are as likely to enter a period of global cooling>
Another red herring I'm afraid – please provide any published empirical research which supports this notion – I think you’ll find there isn’t much.

7.< The likelyhood of your children being better off if we act now is worse than if we don’t act now>:
From an INSEAD perspective, this is the most important point of all. There are a number of decarbonisation pathways laid out by the IPCC available to us between now and 2050. While no specifically pathway has been advocated by the scientists – that is a political decision, the significant majority of the economic research, from a number of sources, published by the International Energy Authority, the World Bank and other credible sources point to the fact that rapid decarbonisation of our economy, if acted on immediately will be significantly cheaper and result in lower risk of runaway climate change than a scenario where most of our decarbonisation happens between 2035 and 2050. This is why delay caused by disinformation is such a problem and arouses such passion. We have a (very) limited carbon budget to take us to 2050. Climate change is the greatest challenge mankind has ever faced, not because decarbonisation is impossible or hugely expensive – it is neither if we act now, but because it requires us to overcome ideological biases, to act on the basis of long term self interest, not short term, to work nationally and internationally in the ultimate prisoner’s dilemma.

Professor Vermaelen, there are a string of other inaccuracies in your article which I’m not going to address. The basic reality is that neither you nor I are climate scientists. I would not dream of spouting empirically inaccurate views on Corporate Finance – I fail to understand why you feel it is your place to hold court on a subject you have never published in. Climate is a phenomenally complex system, but our human understanding of climate has been evolving and maturing for over 150 years of scientific endeavour. The greenhouse effect was publically demonstrated in front of Prince Albert before the Theory of Evolution was published – do you similarly feel that evolution is a half baked science? You are on record as saying that climate science makes basic errors in testing the statistical significance of their models – if it’s so clear and so simple, why don’t you publish an article on it and open yourself to peer review? What have you to lose?

In reality, Professor, the effort to decarbonise our economy needs your intellect and expertise, not your denial of empirical evidence. How do we fashion more efficient carbon markets so as to minimise the deadweight of centrally planned government policy? When valuing companies, how do we best account for stranded carbon assets on the balance sheets of fossil fuel companies when the empirical evidence says we must leave up to 80% of known reserves in the ground? The status quo is that there is significant evidence of risk of destruction of shareholder value by investment in resource extraction which will never be exploited. How do we maximise shareholder value for the principals in that scenario, when the agents are so embedded in their current activities? – Maximisation of shareholder value is surely the only ethical thing to do, from anything you’ve taught us? There are a thousand other questions entirely within your domain. I trust and hope that I and my children can be the beneficiary of your intellect and expertise.

Best regards,


Theo Vermaelen,

Dear Connor

You suggest I should not be allowed to express my opinion because I am not a climate scientist. You don't need to be a scientists to verify predictions. If finance theory predicts that markets are efficient and then you find a trading rule to make money, then you have the right to question efficient markets even if you are not a finance professor. As a tax payer I have the right to know whether the hundreds of billions of euros of subsidies spent to fight climate change are well spent. And as a citizen I have the right to know whether the disfigurement of the landscape and beaches with wind turbines is compensated by the fact that the world will be saved this way. Moreover most journalists who write about climate change in the mainstream media are not climate scientists either and simply report the IPCC headlines without verifying.

The difference between science and religion is that science has to make testable predictions. The prediction of climate science is that global temperatures will rise by 0.2 degrees per decade and more unless if drastic measures are taken. Most scientists agree that the most accurate measure of global temperature comes from sattellite data which cover the whole globe in contrast to land-based thermometers. You can find this data on the on the RSS website http://www.remss.com. The data show clearly a lack of warming during the last 18 years.

According to the website ( wich is clearly not run by "deniers"):

"The reasons for the discrepancy between the predicted and observed warming rate are currently under investigation by numerous research groups"

So the climate science community admits that there is a problem. The IPCC as well but they say the period is too short, without however specifying how long the test period have to be before accepting the rejection of the theory. But if there is a problem, I would have least expected some modesty in the recent report, not claiming that you have 95 % certainty. The public has the right to know that the science is not settled.

So far more than 50 explanations have been proposed for the 18-year warming hiatus but this is like saying: there are so many factors that explain climate change (e.g. the sun) that we can't really control it by focussing on one variable such as carbon. The climate is like the stock market : it moves for many reasons and it would be silly for the government to try to control the stock market by manipulating one variable such as e.g. interest rates.



Connor Barry,

Dear Theo,

On needing to be a scientist to verify predictions - the point is that it would be incorrect in a system as complex as Climate, without even a basic scientific expertise, to assume that you understand and can construct what a valid test of significance is. Anyone can cherry pick data to prove a point - if a company's share price drops 5% in a day without any obvious new market information, does it mean we must immediately suspend any acceptance of the efficient market hypothesis? Of course not!

The Climate, like the Stock exchange moves for many reasons - an imprecise analogy, but sure - the point is that our emissions are a sudden (in geological time) and extreme artificial intervention in the Climate system, an intervention which we need to stop urgently to allow the Climate to return to moving in normal patterns. We have over 150 years of science confirming that we need to do this, not out of some hippie green philosophy, but in reflection of the existential risk to our economy, to our society and ultimately to a vast number of human lives.

There is to my knowledge not a single published empirical paper showing that "there has been no warming (of the Earth) in the past 18 years" nor that a slow down in the rate of increase of surface area temperatures of one data set in any way undermines the conclusions of the physical science. To the contrary, if you were open to reading it, the published empirical evidence is that the oceans have warmed in the past 20 years at an unprecedented rate, there has been an unprecedented loss of ice on the polar icecaps, the oceans have acidified, glaciers have shrunk, and there has been enormous significant change in biological behaviours. So forgive me if I prefer to trust in empirical research published by subject matter experts rather than the views of fossil fuel sponsored blogs.

If some (and unfortunately not all) journalists report the IPCC headlines, it is because, as you are well aware, the IPCC report is not original research - it is a synthesis of all the published peer reviewed scientific basis, and therefore can be relied upon. The hearsay of fossil fuel sponsored blogs not based on published empirical research can by definition not be relied upon.

As for the science not being "settled" - be precise! What science is not settled? The overwhelming majority of the empirical evidence is that the world is warming, that humans are responsible for the majority of that warming, that immediate action is both technically possible and will cost less in terms of human lives and economic outlay than action in the future. Those matters are settled. There is a world of evolving science - the precise local geographic impacts, the risks of sudden irreversible uncontrollable secondary effects, but at what point do we start aggressively acting on this existential risk just because it doesn't match our personal ideologies?

Of course I don't suggest that you as a private investor on the financial markets ignore what you perceive as a market failure - logically, if you believe the overwhelming majority of empirical published scientific research is incorrect, and a small number of fossil fuel sponsored blogs are correct, you should construct, invest in and actively promote a highly leveraged investment fund focussing on fossil fuels and derivatives, which should surely make enormous returns in the event the scientific consensus is wrong. I doubt however you'd have many institutional investors, and suspect you would lose your shirt, however the efficient financial markets will be the ultimate arbiter of that.

It is also absolutely your prerogative as a taxpayer and citizen to encourage governments to act in the most cost efficient manner - indeed, as I mentioned, there are huge areas of research within your expertise where you could achieve that goal.

What I do suggest however is that it is a misuse of your position as a leading academic and a respected professor in one of the foremost scholastic institutions worldwide to disseminate a whole host of information which simply has no basis in empirical research and is sourced largely from fossil fuel sponsored soapboxes. You speak with a voice of authority, you therefore have a responsibility to ensure, if only for market efficiency, that the information you propagate is perfect.

On that basis, I invite you to both remove this publication from the INSEAD Knowledge blog, and publish a retraction correcting the factual errors you have made.


Theo Vermaelen,

Dear Connor

You sound like the Ministry of Truth! Please note that INSEAD is not he IPCC or a Church so that faculty can have different opinions and these opinions are of course personal, not the opinions of INSEAD. Many of my esteemed colleagues disagree with me and occasionally post articles that are sympathetic to the climate change agenda, but I would never ask them to put down their articles. I also assume that there are some readers here with an open mind willing to learn some facts that are different from the newspaper headlines. Note that none of us are climate scientists but this is not only about science, it’s about economics. INSEAD has a European competitiveness initiative and one source of the lack of competitiveness is the high taxes and energy costs created by the European Commission’s obsession with climate change. If the science is flawed then we could improve competitiveness by changing European policy (admittedly, a distant dream as the European Climate Change commissioner would have to give up his job)

The fact is that, based on satellite data, there has been no significant global warming during the last 18 years. This information does not come from a right-wing oil-financed think thank but from a leading scientific research company founded by Frank Wenz, an MIT graduate. So if sea levels are rising, then it is possibly because they have been rising for 20,000 years, not because of global warming. Actually the Antarctic Ice surface is expanding and getting thicker, another fact inconsistent with warming alarmism.

The fact that the planet has not warmed for 18 years is now accepted by numerous scientists who are honest enough to admit that there is a problem with their climate prediction models. One of these scientists is Professor Richard Tol, a man courageous enough to stand up to the IPCC. Mr. Tol is the 25th most cited climate scientist in Google Scholar; he joined the IPCC in 1994 serving in various roles including Lead Author of the economics chapter. He decided to take his name of the Summary for Policy Makers in September 13 because of the alarmist bias of the IPCC. I invite you to read Professor’s Tol’s testimony for the U.S. House of Representatives made on May 29, 2014.


On page 5 he expresses his frustration with the fact that the IPCC reports take so long to write that they are not up to date, noting the observed lack of warming:

“When preparations started for the Fifth Assessment Report, the world hadn’t warmed for 13 years. That is a bit odd if the climate models are correct, but does not warrant a lot of attention. By the time the report was finished, it hadn’t warmed for 17 years. That is decidedly odd but hard to accommodate in a near-final draft that has been through three rounds of review. After the report was finalized, but before it was published, a number of papers appeared with hypotheses about the pause in global warming “

In other words, the newspaper headlines after the most recent IPCC report should have been
“Global warming has stopped. Climate scientists puzzled”

Instead the IPCC decided to double down, state that they are more confident than ever that climate change is man-made and predict the end of the world unless drastic measures are taken. It is this type of fundamental dishonest alarmism that we should all fight. I invite all readers of this blog to send a letter with a copy of Professor’s Tol’s testimony to your political representatives in the EU demanding that similar hearings about the (lack of) integrity of the IPCC are held in Brussels. Perhaps it is not too late to prevent the waste of hundreds of billions of tax payer’s money on a trivial cause.

Pier Mario Gribaudi,

Dear Theo,
I am not a climate scientist, and would not feel comfortable arguing with people that dedicated their life to this science. I understand that human beings put in the air more than 30 Gt of CO2 per year, and this means that the concentration of CO2 in the air increases every year. Higher concentration of CO2 in the air means more CO2 flows from the air into the sea, and makes oceans more acid. Acid oceans kill plankton, shells, corals, etc… There must be something wrong in this, right?
IEA estimates that worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels are about USD 400-600 bn/y. As a tax payer, I think it is smarter to invest this money in innovation and in renewable energy, rather than subsidizing short term consumption of fossil fuels. As a father, I believe my kids will also be better off if taxes go to finance these activities, rather than fueling a coal fired power plant next door. Refusing to fight climate change could be unethical or not, but it is certainly a short sighted and poor strategy.

Theo Vermaelen,


If anyone had any doubts about the value of left-green politicians this article says it all


Who's paying you to say this Theo?
I suggest you print out a copy of this and leave it for your children to find in the future. Even with what is currently known it will look as if you're happy to dig the graves of your own grandchildren.
Ridiculous argument that there is little point wasting time with.


I would go to lengths to add some intelligent riposte if I thought Theo was open to new ideas on the climate change issue. He isn't. I won't. Just to note though the obsession with the past 18 years, the past 18 years refrain. This is the cherry picking Connor alludes to which is then ignored by Theo in his replies. A word on climate change models. They are validated by their ability to reproduce past climatic trends over long periods of time. Not on their ability to forecast next years temperatures. By the way no economic models have been able to forecast market crashes or growth. Is economics flawed too? Funny, the stuff about subsidies and wind farms and all that. Very funny.

Connor Barry,

Dear Theo,

Unlike others here, I'm an eternal optimist, and am sure that your fundamental intelligence and academic formation can allow you to accept the primacy of reliable sources.

You have many opinions, eg. on the role of the Corporation, on the absolute primacy of shareholder value, with which I or some of your colleagues might disagree. But as an advocate of academic and intellectual freedom, I would absolutely and unequivocally support your right to voice those opinions, on this INSEAD Knowledge blog or elsewhere - they are broadly within your field of expertise, they provide a different perspective, there is no overwhelming body of physical evidence to refute them, nor any opportunity cost of having those opinions voiced.

My problem is therefore not with your opinion – it is your representation that a long list of fossil fuel sponsored propaganda are “facts”, when they are either completely unsupported by or in direct contradiction of the published empirical evidence. In the physical sciences, unlike the social sciences, there is a clear difference between opinions and facts: There were either 52 scientists who authored the IPCC AU4 report or there were not. An observed slowdown in the rate of increase of surface air temperatures since 1998 either is a statistically significant observation, or it isn't. The polar icecaps are melting or they aren’t. And so on.

Accounting standards IAS 37 / ASC 450 require business to list, quantify and explain their mitigation efforts in respect of contingent liabilities. We've had several hundred of the world's top scientists clarify that a clear contingent liability to our economy exists. To ignore that risk means putting at peril an extraordinary amount of shareholder value. There are free market and government based solutions to addressing that risk, but one political ideology or the other doesn't change the existence of that risk. I fail to understand why you are not at the heart of laying out the free market solutions that might be possible?

As an example of what is not a credible source, I fail to understand why an academic of your standing advocates ClimateDepot as an unbiased source of climate science – it is sponsored by fossil fuel interests, and written by Marc Morano, whose only “scientific” qualification is a BA in political science, and who is a former communications director for Sen. James Inhofe, therefore clearly having the potential to be politically biased. INSEAD on the other hand is, or should be a credible source for journalists, alumni and others. By your parroting of the propaganda of fossil fuel interests, the INSEAD blog becomes an acceptable reference and an echobox for a political ideology which denies facts and evidence. This belies the reputation for intellectual rigour and academic excellence which underlies both your reputation and INSEAD’s brand.

The "it's been warming for 18 years" has been the most frequently repeated argument from your side, a "discovery" you attribute to http://www.remss.com, as being a highly credible source a number of times in your comments. Here's what the Chief Scientist of REMSS.com says on their website about your interpretation of their data: http://www.remss.com/blog/recent-slowing-rise-global-temperatures :

"Does this slow-down in the warming mean that the idea of anthropogenic global warming is no longer valid? The short answer is ‘no’. The denialists like to assume that the cause for the model/observation discrepancy is some kind of problem with the fundamental model physics, and they pooh-pooh any other sort of explanation. This leads them to conclude, very likely erroneously, that the long-term sensitivity of the climate is much less than is currently thought."

"The denialists really like to fit trends starting in 1997, so that the huge 1997-98 ENSO event is at the start of their time series, resulting in a linear fit with the smallest possible slope."

Furthermore, the REMSS data is one dataset of several of surface air temperatures. I hope I don't need to find a reference for us to agree that the "Earth" is comprised of more than surface air - in order to substantiate a claim that "The Earth hasn't warmed", you would presumably need to also refer to temperature data for the other components of the Earth: the upper atmosphere, shallow ocean, deep ocean, land, glacier and polar icecap temperatures?

How do you reconcile that explanation with your earlier comments?

As you have validly pointed out, billions of euro will be spent on attempted mitigation efforts - it is clearly the most defining issue of our time - and if left too late, the greatest challenge to free market economics since the term was invented. If the issue is so important, and the statistical errors are so obvious, why have you not published in the area? Or if there is any doubt in your mind, why do you not make time to speak with a range of scientifically knowledgeable colleagues who you might regard as unbiased?

For that matter, have a read of what Professor Richard Tol, who you regard as an authority, has published. He absolutely does not refute the idea that climate change is real and man made - indeed he specifically makes no judgement on the physical science, as he objects violently, and rightfully, to academics speaking with authority in public on areas which are outside of their subject matter expertise. His speciality is environmental economics, not physical climate science.

Here's a published review by him of the literature on the marginal economic cost of CO2 emissions, giving a mean of Carbon equivalent emissions across 28 published studies of $93, while he estimates that the cost per ton is more like $50. In 2011 we emitted 33 billion tonnes of CO2 - even at his lower estimate, that's surely still a lot of economic cost?

His principal policy recommendation is creation of a global carbon tax - is that something you advocate? Indeed I believe he was involved in designing the carbon tax we have in Ireland.

I fully appreciate there is a huge amount of misinformation on the web - from both extremes. The science is complex, so that's why picking credible sources is so important. If you have a problem with the summary by 800 subject matter experts of over 10,000 peer reivewed papers in the IPCC AU5 - fine - but who do you accept as credible or are they all part of some global conspiracy?

NASA?: http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

Interacademy, the global network of Science academies: http://www.interacademies.net/10941.aspx?catGroupId=1&CFVTopics=2

Or the Royal Society and US Academy of Sciences:

Or the World's largest general scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science: http://whatweknow.aaas.org/

Or the International Energy Authority: http://www.iea.org/topics/climatechange/

The US Military isn't known for its left wing politics: http://www.defense.gov/pubs/2014_Quadrennial_Defense_Review.pdf

Or the World Bank:

Or the Pontifical Academy of Sciences:

Indeed, there's not a single national or notable scientific academy worldwide that disputes human caused climate change: http://opr.ca.gov/s_listoforganizations.php

Development Agencies:
The Red Cross / Red Crescent?: http://www.climatecentre.org/

Oxfam?: http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/campaigns/food-and-climate-justice

I can keep going if you wish?

Professor, we both have children - if all these, and many more normally reliable sources are saying that the world is warming, and that humans are causing it, the consequences of inaction for our retirement, and for the lives of our children are dire, and that action now will be cheaper and less dramatic than action later, would it not be prudent to invest in some insurance to mitigate this contingent liability for our children? Or is it wiser to only listen to the spin doctoring of non-scientific blogs, invariably with links to the fossil fuel industry in the hope that they are unbiased?

Best regards,



Again you think I should have no right to express an opinion because I am not a climate scientist. Therefore read the opinions of Richard Tol, I put a link to his testimony in front of the US congress in 2014. He is a climate researcher with the 25 largest number of citations in Google scholar. He is courageous enough ( at the expense of the scorn of his colleagues) to reveal the fact that the IPCC is a politically biased organisation, not an objective reporter of facts.

Anyway,let's hope that we stay healthy and return to this message board 12 years from now. If the world has not warmed for 30 years the IPCC and its flawed theory will collapse. The Maya predicted in the 14th century that the world will end in December 2012. The Maya doomsday movement was dissolved in 2012. Let me preduct that the IPCC doomsday movement will be dissolved in 2027. Unfortunately, unlike the Maya movement, after the waste of hundreds of billions of tax payers money.


The latest twist from the finance sector: defining unbridled capitalism as ethical behavior because the grandchildren of the privileged deserve to be rich. What about the billions of people who *already* live below the poverty line because of people like you defending a system that only benefits a few, but steals from everyone else? Human-made climate change is a fact, the polar ice caps are already melting, ecosystems such as coral reefs and glaciers are already suffering or dying, and billions of human and non-human animals are already suffering from it. If you want to save taxes by cutting subsidies, eliminate those for the livestock industry: It produces between 18% (UN FAO estimates) and over 50% (Worldwatch Institute estimates) of global greenhouse gas emissions, is responsible for the pollution of land and water bodies, deforestation, and top soil depletion, and tortures and kills legions of sentient beings to process them into food that slowly kills us, all the while technology has enabled us to obtain a balanced healthy and eco-sustainable diet year-round from plants. Targeting green technology which will replace an unsustainable system of exploiting and polluting finite resources is certainly not ethically responsible.

Sander Geelen,

Dear Mr. Vermaelen,

As an alumni from Insead I am disappointed to see that you, as one of its professors, speak out against the overwhelming scientific opinion of nearly every climate scientist in the world. Yes there are a few that do not fully agree with the so called 97% consensus, but even those no longer deny that man-made CO2 causes global warming. The only debate that is left is about the speed at which events are unfolding, with some, like Tol and Curry more optimistic, but not denying the basics of man-made global warming.

So when you talk here about "the nail in the coffin of the man-made global warming theory" you are contradicting every qualified scientist, whereas you yourself have no qualifications whatsoever in this field.

You probably know that each and every independent national scientific organisation worldwide is on board with the 97% consensus, including some of the oldest and most respected such as Royal Society, The National Academy of Science and the American Association for Advancement of Science with 140.000 members. From the latter come these excellent video clips:

You have a right to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.

The great institution of Insead should respect the right of free speech, however your blog taints the excellent reputation of Insead as an institution that is built on academic rigor and disciplin.


Dear Sander

In my discussion I point at facts, such as the lack of statistically meaningful increase in global warming for 18 years. This anomaly is recognized by the scientifc community (referred to as "the Pause") and currently a topic of scientific research and debate. Please make an effort to have an open mind and read alternative, ( by the IPCC suppressed) research findings, on climatedepot.com.

Again all my statements are my opinion, not the opinion of INSEAD so I don't see how I undermine INSEAD's reputation by pointing out some inconvenient ( for the green lobby) facts. INSEAD is not a church, but an academic institution. Academics test theories by comparing facts with predictions. If the predictions of climate change models are inconsistent with the facts, then the models are wrong and policy makers should ignore them.

Theo ,

The idea that 97 % of academics agree with a theory seems suspicious, considering my familiarity with academics.

The following article sheds some doubt on this "consensus"


Sander Geelen,

Mr. Vermaalen, there is not the slightest evidence that global warming is slowing down. The heat that is trapped within our atmosphere ends up mostly in our oceans which have been warming very consistently even during the 18 years when surface temperature warming has slowed down.

As for the scientific consensus, each and every national scientific organisation around the world agrees that mankind is changing the climate, due to the greenhouse effect. And there is hardly any big multinational left that does not formally confirm the existence of Anthropogenic Global Warming, even if doing so is against their direct interest (Shell, BP, Total, Statoil etc.). They know they won't be taken serious anymore unles they confirm what scientists know.

You may be claiming that your statements are your own, and do not in any way undermine INSEAD's reputation. But then again, that is also how Willy Soon tried to avoid implicating Harvard and the Smithonian.

Meanwhile, the Harvard-Smithonian has a major PR crisis at hand for paying a corrupt Aerospace Engineer to "deliver" "research" showing that the sun is the main cause of climate change.


You state that INSEAD is an academic institution, and that academics test theories against facts. That may be true, but then please leave it to qualified academics to do that. INSEAD, nor you, have any expertise in the area of climate research, physics or chemistry.

So, once again, you have a right to your own opinion, not to your own facts. It is better to leave the facts to the experts and to avoid INSEAD's name being used to lend academic credibility to your personal opinion.

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