Friday, January 13, 2017

Tillerson Equivocates on Climate at the Senate Hearings

Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick to be secretary of state shared his stance on climate change at a confirmation hearing in the Senate. Here are the climate highlights distilled from more than six hours of testimony.

When Tillerson was asked to share his “personal view” of climate change, this is what he said: “I came to the conclusion that the risk of climate change does exist. And the consequences of it could be serious enough that action should be taken. The type of action seems to be where the largest areas of debate exist in the public discourse.”

When asked about the Paris Climate Agreement Tillerson said: “I think it’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table in the conversation on how to address threats of climate change. They do require a global response. No one country is going to solve this alone.”

Yes Tillerson said, that the risks of climate change are real and he even suggested we need to do something about it. Unlike Trump, he did not dismiss the COP process and the Paris Agreement. However, this is where Mr Tillerson and reality part company.

Although he accepts climate evidence, he suggests that the science is not clear as to the cause, nor could these scientists predict the consequences with any accuracy. He also expressed reservations about the Paris Agreement saying, "there is important considerations as we commit to such accords, and as those accords are executed over time: are there any elements of that that put America at a disadvantage?”

Then it goes from bad to worse when he talks about greenhouse gases]. In response to a question from Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) about human contributions to climate change he equivocated. The chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked, "Do you believe that human activity, based on science, is contributing?” Tillerson replied:

“The increase in greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is having an effect. Our ability to predict that effect is very limited.”

Tillerson told senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) “The science behind the clear connection (to human activity) is not conclusive.”

Tillerson's position on climate change reads something like this: The climate is changing but we are not sure why nor can we anticipate its impacts. This is probably a defendable legal position, but it is nonetheless a bold faced lie.

Tillerson did manage to skirt the issues related to the truth behind his relationship with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

The most accurate comments were made by protesters who repeatedly interrupted the proceeding telling those assembled that Tillerson's role as the CEO of Exxon mean that he is unfit to be secretary of state. But on a team like Trump's being "unfit" seems to be the baseline criteria.

Tillerson is willfully out of touch regarding the evidence from attribution science and the urgency of climate action. However, the sad reality is when men like Scott Pruitt have been tapped to lead the EPA, Tillersoon is one of the most climate forward members of the Trump team.

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