Exxon on climate change impacts: “Don’t worry, engineering will fix it”

Oil chief: World will adapt to climate change

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson says fears about climate change, drilling and energy dependence are overblown.

In a speech Wednesday, Tillerson acknowledged that burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet, but said society will be able to adapt. The risks of oil and gas drilling are well understood and can be mitigated, he said. And dependence on other nations for oil is not a concern as long as access to supply is certain, he said.

He blamed a public that is “illiterate” in science and math, a “lazy” press, and advocacy groups that “manufacture fear” for energy misconceptions in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tillerson, in a break with predecessor Lee Raymond, has acknowledged that global temperatures are rising. “Clearly there is going to be an impact,” he said Wednesday.

But he questioned the ability of climate models to predict the magnitude of the impact. He said that people would be able to adapt to rising sea levels and changing climates that may force agricultural production to shift.

“We have spent our entire existence adapting. We’ll adapt,” he said. “It’s an engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution.”

Tip: CFI’s Morning Heresy

Optimistic, isn’t he? The problems aren’t simple though. And they are worldwide, not just local. And expensive? Yes. Both in monetary costs, natural impacts, and in human lives. He’s dismissive of the hazard of accidents and further incidents. But these things have happened repeatedly. They will surely happen again.

Me thinks he is TOO optimistic. Maybe so he can sleep at night.

  8 comments for “Exxon on climate change impacts: “Don’t worry, engineering will fix it”

  1. June 29, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    I tend to agree with this summary of what he said in principle. I do expect the future climate to fall within the range of what the probability curves are currently predicting, but I also expect people will adapt to it. There’s no engineering reason that Florida can’t become another Netherlands, for example. Actually I find this summary refreshing, compared to the usual denial that we hear.

  2. Rob
    June 29, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    “he questioned the ability of climate models to predict the magnitude of the impact. […] “It’s an engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution.””

    That seems a strange stance: we can’t predict what the outcome of emissions will be because we don’t understand the climate well enough, but we do understand it well enough to predict that we’ll be able to cope.

    “What’s going to happen?”
    “We don’t know. Sure some of that bad stuff people have been telling us about for decades is likely but the predictions are of little use.”
    “Shouldn’t we do something now to reduce the effects of these future problems of unknown magnitude?”
    “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine! We’ll be able to fix it.”
    “But how do know you that, given how poor you say the predictions are?”

  3. Paul V Ruggeri
    June 29, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    Well I hope he realizes that one of the ‘engineering solutions’ may in fact have to be vast reduction in use of fossil fuels.

  4. Madmanintheattic
    June 29, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    There are two big problems with any sort of geo-engineering proposal to deal with CO2 build up in the atmosphere. First, no plan to deflect sunlight or darken clouds or increase ocean albido is going to stop ocean death by anoxia and acidification as more CO2 disolves into it. Ocean death is begining and we cannot stop it and there is hundreds of years of CO2 waiting to disolve there. Nor can any kind of geo-engineering stop the tipping point which has been passed regarding the melting tundra and melting clathrates releasing giga-tons of methane. No geo-engineering can re-freeze those formations. We are past the point of no return regarding both these positive feedbacks.

    Additionally few people realize we already have a “geo-engineered” screen cooling the planet right now. Global dimming caused by soot, smoke and other particulate matter in the mid-atmosphere is already mitigating global heating by as much as 2 degrees Celcius by some estimates. Combined with the almost one degree Celcius we are aware of at the surface we could heat up almost 3 degrees if something caused our production of soot, smoke and particulate matter to cease or be significantly reduced. Major industrial shut-down due to economic collapse or reduced availability of fossil fuels could reduce Global Dimming sufficiently to cause major catastrophe. A population reducing plague in Asia and/or Africa where dung and wood is still used for cooking and heating could reduce particulate matter significantly. It would only take about a week for currently suspended particles to be washed from the atmosphere and the heating to soar into deadly ranges.

    Have a nice day.
    Your Madmanintheattic

  5. June 29, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    Why do you think his allies are building an ark in Kentucky?

  6. June 29, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    I suspect some of the initial engineering solutions (until the oceans really start to acidify) will be those of getting in your engineered car and evacuating on the engineered roads.

  7. June 29, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    Well, sure. They will have to move their beachfront homes! But some species WON’T adapt and extinctions and spread of diseases will occur as well as possibly water shortages, agricultural problems and food shortages will also be a factor. Maybe we will engineer but the costs will be great, including lives. Not for us rich people, though.

  8. Rog
    July 3, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    It wasn’t well covered (surprise), but I nevertheless thought you would have linked to this story by now:


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