Times they are changing: Exxon acknowledges climate change?

Finally an honest oil CEO speaks the truth on climate change. According to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, climate change is happening, but who cares - we can adapt. So fears about climate change, drilling, and energy dependence are overblown.

He said the oil industry’s biggest challenge is "taking an illiterate public and try to help them understand why we can manage these risks." That would be me and you.

I don’t know about you, but I feel reassured. Here, I’ve been thinking all this time the oil industry didn’t believe in science or just didn’t understand.  Now the head of the biggest oil company in the world is admitting we will see floods, droughts, rising sea level and freaky powerful storms on a scale never seen before, but hey, “don’t worry, be happy”. We have engineering.

There are numerous engineering solutions to climate change. The cheapest tend to be reducing emissions and thereby the problems. Mr. Tillerson seems to be advocating adaption rather than mitigation. Will one on his successors be telling our children that Exxon will build them a giant mirror in space to reflect sunlight away from the Earth?

I do have some questions, however! How will the more than 100 million people in Bangladesh, who will lose their country to rising seas, adapt? How are 100 people missing and thousands stranded on high ground by flooding this week in Bangladesh adapting? What was their share of ExxonMobil profits?

The real question is one of “differentiated responsibility”. Who benefits and who suffers the consequences?  Mr. Tillerson is quite right; the solutions to climate change are engineering.  A good engineer would tell you that engineering to avoid problems is better than engineering to fix them. It’s cheaper and easier, unless of course you don’t have to pay for problem and can put it off on someone else or future generations - a reverse pay it forward.  Leave those tailings in the ponds, ‘there will be an answer, let it be’.

The Bank of Canada and the Finance Minister have been talking a lot lately about growing household debt and how we can’t let it continue to hang over our heads like Damocles' sword, not knowing when it will crash down on our heads.

There is also huge environmental debt hanging over all our heads. It warrants at least as much attention as mortgage rates. But at least ExxonMobil admits there is a problem so the “times they are changing”.

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