Exxon CEO: ‘What Good Is It To Save The Planet If Humanity Suffers?’

At Wednesday’s meeting for ExxonMobil shareholders in Dallas, CEO Rex Tillerson told those assembled that an economy that runs on oil is here to stay, and cutting carbon emissions would do no good.

He asked, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”

One good would be that humanity has a habitable place to live. And in acting to stop the increasingly dangerous effects of climate change, we could avoid a great deal of suffering. Tillerson missed the billions of dollars in damages, thousands of lives lost, millions displaced, and rampant ecological destruction due to the carbon emissions that cause climate change.

Exxon does not see carbon emissions falling significantly until 2040. Staying on this path will mean more suffering: heat waves, conflict, food insecurity, Dust Bowl-like drought, extreme flooding, sea level rise, increasingly destructive storms, and worsening refugee crises.

A Carbon Disclosure Project Report noted that “ExxonMobil noted that the company’s ‘operations around the world include remote and offshore areas that present challenges from existing climate extremes and storms. These severe weather events may disrupt supplies or interrupt the operations of ExxonMobil facilities.’ ” Even so, A 2011 study found that “9 out of 10 top climate change deniers [were] linked with Exxon Mobil.”

So what Tillerson probably meant to ask shareholders yesterday was “What good is it to save humanity if profits suffer?” Last year he had told the Council on Foreign Relations about the “manageable” risks of climate change: “As a species that’s why we’re all still here: we have spent our entire existence adapting. So we will adapt to this. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”

The beauty of this approach is that Exxon makes money on both ends — they get to sell all their climate-destroying fossil fuels, and then, no doubt, they will sell their engineering skills dealing with the ever-worsening climate extremes. Now that’s win-win.

For the seventh time, almost three-quarters of Exxon shareholders voted down a resolution that would require the company to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from using Exxon products. Shareholders also rejected a resolution that would ban discrimination against gays.