Friday, May 31, 2013

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson Says Climate Change Poses "Serious Risk" But Suggests Business As Usual

Exxon held its annual shareholder meeting, where the Board of Directors recommended a vote against a shareholder resolution that called for the company to address the risks created by climate change.  The resolution was defeated but drew 27% support from Exxon's shareholders--a significant number of dissenting shareholders.

In the question and answer session, CEO Rex Tillerson said this about climate change:

"I think our views on climate change and the risk of climate change have been fairly well described both in public forums where I and others have spoken as well, as in publications in the ways we have expressed review climate change as a serious issue, it does present serious risk. I will maintain the view that I have had for some time now, but notwithstanding all the advancements that have been made in gathering more data, instrumenting the planet so that we understand how climate conditions on the planet are changing, notwithstanding all that data, our ability to project with any degree of certainty the future is continuing to be very limited."

The good news is that Tillerson says climate change presents a "serious risk."  The continuing unfortunate news is that Exxon favors effectively business as usual, despite the admitted serious risk posed by a warming climate. And despite the fact that atmospheric carbon concentrations are now at 400 ppm, the highest level in 3 million years, and that temperatures, sea levels, ocean acidity, and moisture content in the air are already up.

Tillerson's defense of a business as usual course is uncertainty about the amount of warming.  Indeed, there are degrees of uncertainty about what the next 87 years of this century will bring in climate, but science has provided ranges of impacts that have a high degree of probability.

In its business, Exxon is a big enough that it may normally self-insure against many risks.  The people, flora, and fauna already impacted by climate change cannot do the same now and will not be able to do so as the impacts become more disruptive, destructive, and expensive.

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