At a meeting in Dallas on Wednesday, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson told shareholders that protecting the environment doesn’t matter. “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?” he asked. This dumbfoundingly ignorant question can only be attributed to corporate greed.
Overlooking the faults with an anthropocentric viewpoint that places no value on anything unless it benefits humanity in some way, the belief that a healthy environment is not absolutely crucial to the welfare of humanity is ludicrous.
ExxonMobil’s CEO believes that human suffering will not occur while the environment continues to degrade and changes in weather patterns cause more-severe storms, flooding, sea level rise, drought, fires, and extreme heat waves, which can then cause food insecurity and displacement, and create climate refugees. The creation of millions of climate refugees could in turn cause security threats, religious conflict, political violence, and the spread of contagious disease.
In order to protect their money, giant corporations, like ExxonMobil and others in the oil and gas industry, will continue to fight against and therefore prolong the shift away from the fossil fuel paradigm, no matter how much scientific proof and evidence for anthropogenic climate change is revealed to them.
2012 was a record year for creating climate refugees, with eight mega-disaster-induced displacement events, which displaced over one million people each, the two largest events (massive floods in India and Nigeria), which displaced over 6 million people each, and Hurricane Sandy, which displaced more than 775,000 in the US and 343,000 in Cuba, among other disasters. Despite this fact, it’s easy to see why corporate fat cats remain unfazed by the suffering of millions across the globe.
Rex Tillerson, who was named chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil in 2006, led the company to a $44.9 billion profit last year, coming close to ExxonMobil’s record earnings of $45.2 billion in 2008, more money in a single year than any other corporation in history.
In April, Dallas News reported that Tillerson got a 15 percent raise to $40.3 million. That month, ExxonMobil pointed to an exploration deal in the Arctic and new oil discoveries in Europe in Africa as “likely to pay significant rewards for shareholders for years to come.”
Also at their annual meeting on Wednesday, nearly three-quarters of ExxonMobil shareholders voted down a resolution that would require the company to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from using Exxon products, for the seventh time, according to Climate Progress.
Last year, Tillerson told the Council on Foreign Relations that while there is “clearly” going to be a “warming impact” from increasing CO2 emissions, he believes the consequences of increased emissions will be “manageable.” And how does he propose to manage them? The solution, he said, is for humans to “adapt.”
“What do you want to do if we think the future has sea level rising four inches, six inches? Where are the impacted areas, and what do you want to do to adapt to that? … Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around – we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”
Unfortunately, it will be a difficult task to engineer a new habitable planet.
Because of the power of mammoth corporations to fund climate science denial and perpetuate the dependency on fossil fuels in order to keep their pockets filled, it may be that the only choice left to humanity is to adapt to severe weather events, a lack of food, land, and resources, and displacement of millions across the world. But certainly even a blind man can see that scenario will cause more suffering than shifting the fossil fuel paradigm.
Alisha Mims is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.