Fueled by a warming climate, Colorado is experiencing its worst fire season in its history.
As researchers at Boulder’s National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)joined 32,000 other Coloradans in fleeing the fires, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations about the “manageable” risks of climate change:
Rex Tillerson said at a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that climate change was a “great challenge,” but it could be solved by adapting to risks such as higher sea levels and changing conditions for agriculture.
“As a species that’s why we’re all still here: we have spent our entire existence adapting. So we will adapt to this,” he said. “It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”
Tillerson’s flippant remarks about “adapting” to the “manageable” consequences of climate change come at a time that Exxon is making record profits. In 2011, the company made $41.1 billion in profits, and Tillerson pulled in $34.9 million total compensation — a 20 percent raise from 2010.
A 2011 study found that “9 out of 10 top climate change deniers [were] linked with Exxon Mobil.” So it’s no surprise that Exxon’s CEO would spread misinformation on global warming.
Climate Progress is unaware of any serious climate scientists who think that global warming is “manageable” simply through adaptation if we listen to the do-nothing Exxon crowd and stay anywhere near our current emissions path. We know a great many who have written that the reverse is true (see below).
It’s also worth nothing that by mid-century, wildfires in the West our projected to be far, far worse. Here’s the grim projection from a presentation made by the President’s science adviser Dr. John Holdren in Oslo in 2010:
We can barely manage the wildfires we have today. How exactly would much of the West “manage” a 4-fold to 6-fold increase in wildfires? And that’s just from a 1°C increase in temperatures. We could see 5 times that this century.
He added: “In the IPCC reports … when you predict things like sea-level rise, you get numbers all over the map. If you take what I would call a reasonable scientific approach to that, we believe those consequences are manageable. They do require us to begin to spend more policy effort on adaptation.”
While it’s true that the IPCC and other analyses have reported a range of sea level rise and other impacts, much of that is due to the fact that they consider some very low emissions scenarios that would require aggressive action of a kind that Exxon has spent millions to stop. And the IPCC report was based on science and observations that is 6 years old — it ignored virtually any contribution to sea level rise this century from the disintegration of the great ice sheets. Now there is a widespread convergence of scientific analysis that says on the do-nothing path, sea level rise by 2100 is likely to be 3 feet and could be double that.
The key point is that the Exxon strategy – taking no serious action to reduce emissions — eliminates most of the uncertainty concerning future emissions and makes catastrophic impacts all but a sure thing.