Rex Tillerson Questions Human Role in Halting Climate Change

(Bloomberg) -- Rex Tillerson, the former U.S. secretary of state under President Donald Trump and ex-chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp., told an industry conference in Houston that he questions whether there is anything humans can do to combat climate change.

“With respect to our ability to influence it, I think that’s still an open question,” Tillerson said Tuesday at the Argus Americas Crude Summit. “Our belief in the ability to influence it is based upon some very, very complicated climate models that have very wide outcomes.”

Tillerson’s comments stand in stark contrast to the scientific consensus that cutting emissions can help slow humanity’s contribution to global warming. The remarks come less than a month after New York’s attorney general said she wouldn’t appeal a court ruling rejecting the state’s claim that Exxon misled investors for years about its internal planning for risks associated with climate change.

Rex Tillerson Questions Human Role in Halting Climate Change

Exxon doesn’t dispute that its operations produce greenhouse gases or that greenhouse gases contribute to climate change, according to court documents from that case. Within weeks of his promotion to CEO in 2006, the Exxon lifer acknowledged the threat from climate change and the need for alternative fuels to reduce greenhouse gases.

Still, while leading the Western Hemisphere’s biggest oil company, Tillerson was an opponent of climate-friendly shareholder resolutions and carbon cap-and-trade systems. He also was a leading proponent of fracking and relished public debates with activists over the technical nuances of the United Nations climate research.

2 Degrees

On Tuesday, Tillerson said he’s long taken the view that climate change “is a very serious matter.” Scientists should be allowed to continue their work on global warming without fear that their funding will be cut off if they come to “the wrong conclusion.”

He went on to say that the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is “fine,” but that modeling the impact of certain mitigation efforts on temperatures is more complicated.

“Whether or not anything we do will ultimately influence it remains to be seen,” he said in response to a question on rising concern about climate change. “One day we’ll know the answer to that, but our ability to predict the answer to that is quite complicated.”

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