While speaking on June 27 to the Council on Foreign Relations, someone asked Rex Tillerson what ExxonMobil plans to do about climate change. Tillerson questioned the climate change models, stating that “our ability to predict, with any accuracy, what the future’s going to be is really pretty limited.” He did state that he believes carbon emissions in the atmosphere are “going to have an impact…a warming impact,” but calls into question how big the impact will be. He even went as far as saying, “We believe those consequences are manageable.”
Tillerson did start off answering the question by stating that ExxonMobil has studied the issue and will “continue to study it.” That certainly is a big departure from pre-Tillerson days six years ago, when ExxonMobil funded climate change denial campaigns. Interestingly, after Tillerson answered the question about climate change, moderator Alan Murray, an editor at the Wall Street Journal, reminded him that ExxonMobil once mounted a “very aggressive” public relations campaign against climate change.
When Murray asked Tillerson if he believes climate change is one of the top five challenges we face today, he answered that it is a “great challenge.” However, he went on to say that “there are much more pressing priorities that we as a — as a human being race and society need to deal with.”
Just what is the pressing priority that tops climate change? For Tillerson that pressing priority is providing electricity to the “hundreds of millions, billions of people living in abject poverty around the world” who need it. Not having access to fossil fuels to burn, according to Tillerson, “dramatically” affects people’s health. “They’d love to burn fossil fuels because their quality of life would rise immeasurably, and their quality of health and the health of their children and their future would rise immeasurably,” Tillerson said. Allowing more people in developing countries to burn fossil fuels would “save millions upon millions of lives,” Tillerson declared. It would also increase ExxonMobil’s bottom line.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Tillerson spoke to the Council for Foreign Relations just one day after a federal appeals court upheld the EPA’s climate pollution emissions rules. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) posted a partial list of petitioners, and one of them is the American Petroleum Institute, which Exxon is a member of. One of the EPA rules that the appeals court upheld would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Is it also a coincidence that Tillerson mentioned burning fossil fuels, albeit for developing countries, to provide electricity?
Photo: Flickr user, William Munoz