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Exxon continues denier tactics

Written By: - Date published: 1:51 pm, July 2nd, 2012 - 37 comments
Categories: business, climate change, disaster - Tags: , , ,

A speech from the CEO of Exxon Mobil made quite a splash recently:

Exxon CEO: Fossil fuels will warm planet, but humans can adapt

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. … Tillerson 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.”

We have spent out entire existence adapting to local changes in the context of a global system which has been remarkably stable. We have no precedent for, and no “engineering” solutions which can hope to adapt, to crisis on a global scale.

Tillerson’s glib reassurances are simply the next phase of Exxon’s well funded and carefully designed climate change denier tactics:

A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists offers the most comprehensive documentation to date of how ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry’s disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organizations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue. According to the report, ExxonMobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.

Meanwhile in unrelated news:

US wildfires are what global warming really looks like, scientists warn

The Colorado fires are being driven by extreme temperatures, which are consistent with IPCC projections

Scorching heat, high winds and bone-dry conditions are fueling catastrophic wildfires in the US west that offer a preview of the kind of disasters that human-caused climate change could bring, a trio of scientists said on Thursday.

“What we’re seeing is a window into what global warming really looks like,” said Princeton University’s Michael Oppenheimer, a lead author for the UN’s climate science panel. “It looks like heat, it looks like fires, it looks like this kind of environmental disaster … This provides vivid images of what we can expect to see more of in the future.”

In Colorado, wildfires that have raged for weeks have killed four people, displaced thousands and destroyed hundreds of homes. Because winter snowpack was lighter than usual and melted sooner, fire season started earlier in the US west, with wildfires out of control in Colorado, Montana and Utah.

The high temperatures that are helping drive these fires are consistent with projections by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said this kind of extreme heat, with little cooling overnight, is one kind of damaging impact of global warming.

Someone kindly ask Mr Tillerson what his “engineering solution” is – fast…

37 comments on “Exxon continues denier tactics ”

  1. We have spent out entire existence adapting to local changes in the context of a global system which has been remarkably stable. We have no precedent for, and no “engineering” solutions which can hope to adapt, to crisis on a global scale. 

    Human have adapted to massive global change in the past. The Ice Age for example.

    • Bunji 1.1

      They’ve adapted over the course of a few thousand years, rather than a few decades. And the change that is going to occur is a much bigger swing in temperature than what caused the ice-age. We’re headed to 6degrees by 2100, when 4 degrees will be catastrophic.

      In other news today – even if we halt the change to 2 degrees (only possible with massive change, now), sea levels will keep rising for a couple of centuries

      I’ve no doubt that we will have engineering solutions by the way. But they will only be mitigation, they will not halt climate change, or stop it impacting on us. Just reduce the impact of some of the effects on some of us (the some being in “developed” countries no doubt).

      • yeah, there are many geo-engineering projects they think could help. But the side effects could be worse than the cure

        • Reality Bytes

          It’s a shame we have so little faith in our engineers these days. Really illustrates a general lack of faith in our educational processes, a negative sign of the times attitude-wise. But surely we can do better and rise above it! It’s just a state of mind.

      • TimD 1.1.2

        …and while humans have the ability to adapt quickly using technology, our life support system that comprises of the forests and oceans that provide us with oxygen will likely die out, taking most with it.
        Engineering solutions will/are not sexy and are difficult to sell – “use less? ….b.b.b.but that’d mean that I’d have to, well, use less. But we have to grow to maintain the economy and I must buy more! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”

    • Murray Olsen 1.2

      Please try to think about how humans adapted to the Ice Age and then add nuclear weapons to the plot.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 1.3

      “Adapted” is a putting a positive spin on it. I expect you’ll be advising stoic fortitude any time now.

  2. Unfortunately the human adaption the Exxon Fool refers to needs to occur over existing nation state boundaries. So when food production shifts or water resource move, war tend to break out. A hungry population with nuclear weapon is a scary one, think about having another 3-4 North Koreas to deal with.

  3. feijoa 3

    I have heard the sceptics are taking NIWA to the High Court in Auckland sometime very soon to try and get a judicial review . Thousands being spent on lawyers when NIWA has better things to do. Does anyone in Auck keep an eye on the court?

    • Sweetd 3.1

      If the temp record is correct then you have nothing to get upset about.

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 3.1.1

        I worry that the morons who brought the case will not be able to afford the costs that will be awarded against them, and that will divert funds from the work NIWA does.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      Thought that got thrown out a couple of years back. Certainly nothing showing up in multiple Google searches past 2010.

  4. captain hook 4

    hi Feijoa. I hope someone is watching the court.
    Some real would be better than bitching on the web.

  5. Bill 5

    Looks to me as though ExxonMobil are taking a back step. From “there is no such thing as global warming” to “there is global warming but we’re confident we can fix it well enough” smacks of desperation from where I sit. When they fail to show us any existing engineering fixes or propose any viable engineering fixes based on further development of current technology, they’re sunk.

    If the petro-chemical industry is accepting the reality of global warming, that’s bound to have a significant impact on the perceptions of the proportion of the population that have cleaved to the industry’s previous line, no?

  6. burt 6

    These new wildfires are ….. global warming….

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      And once again burt fails to understand what was actually said.

      The article said that we can expect more wildfires due to the fact that the conditions that bring them about will happen more often.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 6.2

      Burt, according to the US Forest Service and Oregon State University:

      Effective fire suppression since the 1950s has reduced the extent of wildfires in the United States by a factor of eight since the beginning of the 20th century…

      Which if nothing else suggests that they have been very successful in avoiding what just happened, until this week. Of course, it’s entirely possible that some right wing halfwit slashed the fire-suppression budget, and that they are responsible for the situation. Ya think?

      Meanwhile, an area of land in the order of magnitude of the North Island has suffered “catastrophic” storm damage to the power grid. Nothing to see here move along.

    • mike e 6.3

      Burt by your own evidence the amount of area burnt by fire seems to mimic the same graph as the amount of carbon dioxide us humans and our activities have caused!

      Own Goal! burt.

    • Bill 6.4

      In partial defence of burt….yup, I’m going to do it…it’s been acknowledged that the strategy used in the US to prevent forest fires means that when one happens it’s far larger than if they had allowed them to naturally run their course. (Something to do with underbrush that would have been incrementally burned off in the normal course of ‘regular’ but comparitively small forest fires accumulating and so providing far more fuel to feed fires that do get going.)

      That’s not to say that the climatic conditions that favour forest fires isn’t becoming more prevalent. But it does impact on the severity of individual events.

  7. Kotahi Tane Huna 7

    I wonder at the reckless stupidity of Exxon et al – the CEOs and others in positions of responsibility are taking an enormous gamble with their personal liberty; they may be taking their tactics from the tobacco industry, but the effects of their behaviour are several orders of magnitude worse.

    Hundreds, if not thousands, of people escaped being burned alive this time. Mr. Tillerson’s brave assertions will come back to haunt him.

    • RedLogix 7.1

      Yes. I want to see these people held accountable. What they have done is entirely comparable to war crimes.

      Prior to WW2 the concept of a ‘war crime’ scarcely held much weight. It will take a comparable catastrophe to give a similar heft to the notion of ‘eco-crime’.

      But it will happen.

  8. Richard Christie 8

    Human developed engineering solutions will be too late and will be totally puny in effect against the natural forces that are unleashed once the great carbon sinks such as the oceans and permafrost are saturated or destroyed, and predicted positive feedback warming processes kick in.
    Natural reversal of climatic change in the paleoclimatic record have taken hundreds and thousands of years to effect. We haven’t a show but to ride it out.
    Engineering might just mitigate some of the damage to our species and a few (selected) others but the current bio diversity is doomed.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 8.1

      What do you think of the notion (my own, and based on nothing but wishful thinking) that the weather itself will degrade our ability to do much more damage?

      • Richard Christie 8.1.1

        Rain more and so put out our fires?
        Warmer so we won’t need to turn the furnace on in winter?
        Just kidding, but you’ll have to elaborate your notion.

        • Colonial Viper

          Economic and monetary collapse is going to be what slows down the damage we do.

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          Flooding, violent storms, etc, physically destroying infrastructure, rendering BAU impossible?

          • Colonial Viper

            By that stage the worse consequences will be hitting our civilisation, and almost by definition there will not be much left to do, and BAU will of course not be possible. (Actually, its not possible right now).

            • Kotahi Tane Huna

              What makes you think we aren’t already at that stage? There is plenty of information available on the economic impact of last year’s tornadoes in the USA, for example (although flooding in Thailand also springs to mind) – the recent storm and wildfire damage will set things back further. An economy can cope when this sort of disaster is a rare event, but what happens when – as seems to be the case at the moment – the damage becomes constant?

              • Richard Christie

                Many people seem to mistakenly believe that carbon emission and warming are linked by a simple linear relationship, for example, that reducing or even ceasing emissions will immediately cause temperatures to trend downward. The relationships aren’t linear and trends can’t be controlled that manner, aside from the feedbacks within the systems there is tremendous inertia.
                My view from reading and understanding of feedback theory is that once the major positive warming feedback start it won’t much matter what we do, BAU or otherwise.

                • Bunji

                  It will make a difference. Yes there is inertia, and we’re really up the spout if positive warming feedback starts; but even if we can’t stop warming, there’s a huge difference with each degree we add to it…

                • Kotahi Tane Huna

                  My understanding is that we will experience the full impact of today’s emissions in about forty years, but the timescale of the overall “warming event” is more like 500,000 years.

                  But the BAU emissions scenario just doesn’t seem that likely in light of recent events.

  9. Jenny 9

    Worse than the deniers of Climate Change, are the knowing apologists for Climate Change. More dangerous, more brutal, more callous, more self indulgent, more pernicious.

    Arrogant in the extreme. Their message is clear, “We are going to exploit the natural world to its limits, and beyond. And we don’t give a damn.”

    Like the knowing Mafia polluters who dump toxic waste in National Parks for a fee. Their plan is to leave the mess for others to clean up. Even if the mess can’t be cleaned up and the damage is irrepairable, that is not the mafia’s concern.

    • Jenny 9.1

      From the deniers and sceptics we can learn. They do us a service by getting us not to take our facts on faith, but making us check rechech the facts for ourselves. So that we convinced and assured of our authority to act.

      Like King Canute of legend. The environment (like the tide), doesn’t care if deniers don’t believe in it.

      But those who accept it and persist, are the real criminals. Because (usually) they are from the ranks of powerful vested interest, actually responsible and culpable for continuing these policies.

  10. locus 10

    Climate change is as much about demand as it is about supply. The fossil fuel producers are the suppliers and every single one of us is the customer.


    1. Tax the heck out of fossil fuel producers. A smart way to do this for oil producers would be to tax the difference between the oil price per barrel and what the industry calls ‘lifting costs’, i.e. the cost of production per barrel.

    2. Tax the heck out of ALL users of fossil fuels (base tax on the volume used not the ‘sales’ price)

    3. Use the HUGE tax revenues to subsidise (for example)
    – GHG-free energy supplies and electricity transmission networks (publicly owned)
    – Electrically powered public transport services (publicly owned)
    – Energy saving technologies/industries/research
    – Public education about how to reduce carbon emissions

    4. Dream that one day all nations will have political parties that have the guts to do this

    • Jenny 10.1

      To wage the war on fascism, top end tax rates on the rich reached 90%, in this and other countries.

      Such were the policies implemented to wage World War II.

      Alongside this, whole scale nationisation of large sectors of the private sector economy.

      Mass conscription for males, alongside mass mobilisation of the rest of the population.

      Fascism was seen as an existential threat.

      The economic sacrifice was not an issue, and was never factored in.

      The total cost in human life has been tallied at around 60 million souls.

      Climate Change is also an existential threat, with an estimated death toll globally surpassing that of WWII.

      The policies needed to combat climate change need to be nowhere near as extreme as those taken by our parents and grandparents generation fascism.

      What is missing is the political will.

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