Exxon CEO calls climate change engineering problem

Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:09pm IST

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* CEO: policy should focus on adapting to climate change

* Global poverty more pressing than climate change

* Poor would benefit from fossil fuel access

By Matt Daily

NEW YORK, June 27 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday that efforts to address climate change should focus on engineering methods to adapt to shifting weather patterns and rising sea levels rather than trying to eliminate use of fossil fuels.

Tillerson said humans have long adapted to change, and governments should create policies to cope with the Earth's rising temperatures.

"Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around -- we'll adapt to that. It's an engineering problem and it has engineering solutions," Tillerson said in a presentation to the Council on Foreign Relations.

"The fear factor that people want to throw out there to say 'We just have to stop this,' I do not accept."

Exxon Mobil, once one of the staunchest critics of climate change research, has acknowledged under Tillerson's leadership that human-made emissions have contributed to altering the planet's climate. The company now supports taxing carbon emissions.

Still, Tillerson said issues such as global poverty were more pressing than climate change, and billions of people without access to energy would benefit from oil and gas supplies.

"They'd love to burn fossil fuels because their quality of life would rise immeasurably," he said.

"You'd save millions upon millions of lives by making fossil fuels available to parts of the world that don't have it," he added.

Tillerson's remarks followed by just a few days a global meeting in Rio de Janeiro aimed at setting up goals for sustainable development to help the very people the oil executive mentioned. Many of the world's poorest are expected to feel the harshest effects of climate change, including sea level rise, more severe storms, floods and droughts.

The gathering of government officials, business people and non-governmental groups ended with what some participants considered lackluster results.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touched on some of the subjects Tillerson mentioned when she said at the Rio meeting, "Governments alone cannot solve all the problems we face, from climate change to persistent poverty to chronic energy shortages."

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has emphasized the need for mitigation of global warming, including limiting climate-warming carbon emitted by fossil fuels like oil, along with adaptation to it.

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Comments (2)
Kiwiiano wrote:
Mr Tillerson is sort-of partly correct, but he fails to mention the COSTS of adaptation to rising sea levels and shifting weather patterns v’s finding alternatives to the relentless release of fossil carbon. I would have thought the costs of moving many of the planet’s major cities and billions of people would run up quite a bill that he seems to want to put on our tab.

Jun 27, 2012 4:58am IST  --  Report as abuse
MarkHMoulton wrote:
“…efforts to address climate change should focus on engineering methods to adapt to shifting weather patterns and rising sea levels rather than trying to eliminate use of fossil fuels.”

Depressing foolishness from a man who should know better.

For engineering to be successful, the scope of the problem must be defined. Engineering also needs to be paid for. With climate change, we have no idea what the scope of the problem is or how much it will cost. A few obvious questions:

* How do we deal with loss of species? I know of no engineering solutions to this.
* How do we grow food in climates that no longer sustain agriculture?
* How do we pay to secure our coast-lines, or do we just abandon them and move inland?
* How do people in warm climates — the bulk of the population — deal with temperatures regularly above 120F? Who pays for the air conditioning? Who powers it?
* How do we move fresh water to areas that need it, given waning water supplies?
* How do we address the increased energy demands? With what fuel? Petroleum???

The last global warming event of the magnitude we are on track for occurred many millions of years ago and nearly wiped out life on the planet. Mr. Tillerson seems to think this is all manageable with a little engineering, and that re-engineering the planet is actually EASIER than cutting our CO2 production.

I need to take a pill.

Jun 27, 2012 6:21am IST  --  Report as abuse
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