- During hours of testimony and pointed questions yesterday before a Senate committee, Secretary of State nominee and former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told lawmakers that the United States should remain a part of the Paris Climate accord to "maintain its seat at the table," an apparent split from the stance from President-elect Donald Trump.
- While Trump has vowed to abandon the United Nation's Paris agreement and has said climate change is a hoax, Tillerson believes mankind's greenhouse gas emissions are having an impact.
- Tillerson stepped down from Exxon in December to prepare for a possible role as Secretary of State in President-elect Donald Trump's new administration. Confirmation hearings will continue today.
Tillerson's long career at Exxon—he started there in the mid-70s—is also a history of evolving views on climate change. The oil giant for years denied the dangers, but Tillerson has changed his tune in recent years and has expressed concern for the planet's warming as well as the United States assisting in efforts to arrest the trend. However, he has also indicated it is very difficult to quantify the impacts of global warming.
"It’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table with the conversations around how to deal with the threats of climate change,” he told lawmakers yesterday. "No one country is going to solve this on its own."
Among Trump's campaign promises was a vow to end costly regulations. He has promised to strike the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan and has indicated he would pull out of the Paris accord. Both issues have been closely watched by electric utilities looking for signs of how they will need to react to potential new regulations and mandates. The emissions restrictions on existing power plants have been shifting the country's generation away from coal, accelerating a market-driven shift already underway.
In 2015, almost 200 countries came together and agreed on efforts to keep the impact of climate change below 2 degrees Celsius. For the United States, that would mean cutting emissions 26% by 2025. But if the country were to not participate, it would undermine the global effort. The United States and China each ratified the agreement in September, and many believe the agreement will be ineffective without the U.S.' participation.
While Tillerson's comments may be a relief to some activists, others urge caution. Climate Change News, for instance, reported his comments demonstrate a " less woke attitude toward climate change than had been trailed in the media." According to the site, it appears Tillerson's interest in remaining a part of the Paris accord is more about negotiating power than leading a climate fight.
“Our ability to predict that effect is very limited,” Tillerson told senators yesterday, of climate change's impacts.