Supplying electricity to the “billions of people living in abject poverty” is a more important goal than curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson said.
Electricity will do more to improve the quality of life for people who still cook food by burning animal dung than trying to prevent climate change, which will be “manageable,” Tillerson said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York today.
Environmental groups and scientists are urging reductions in the use of fossil fuel-fired power plants, the largest man-made source of greenhouse-gas emissions tied to global warming. Tillerson said other issues should take precedence.
“There are much more pressing priorities that we, as a human race, need to deal with,” he said. The world’s poorest residents “don’t even have access to fossil fuels to burn. They’d love to burn fossil fuels because their quality of life would rise immeasurably.”
People will adapt to rising sea levels and changing weather patterns resulting from climate change, he said.
“Increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere will have a warming impact,” Tillerson said. “It’s an engineering problem and it has an engineering solution.”
Farmers may shift crops to new regions as temperatures rise. “As a species, that’s why we’re all still here,” he said. “We adapt.”
Exxon Mobil, under prior CEO Lee Raymond, funded groups that questioned the impact of global warming. Since Tillerson took over the company in 2006, he has spoken more openly about climate change.