As reported in the Financial Times of London, Exxon Mobil is distancing itself from the doubt about climate change that it fomented in the early part of the last decade. Exxon cannot keep on saying “science is not settled” when more and more people will be responding: “So what? Deal with these climate problems.”
Exxon has been searching for another theme it can promote to protect its fossil fuels assets, and keep its shareholders happy. It seems to have found the right message: adaptation.
In an earlier ForourGrandchildren blog we referred to “An Appeal to Reason”, a book on climate change written by a noted sceptic, Lord Lawson of Blaby. We referred to his stunning confidence in “autonomous adaptation”. He asks this question, in which he introduces a premise that man has adapted through the ages:
“In short. . . there remains the fundamental question of what is the most cost-effective way of addressing the likely consequences of global warming. Is it to adapt to them, as man has adapted through the ages and throughout the world to the vagaries of the climate, or is it the attempt to prevent them, even if this means radically transforming the global economy?”
Now the concept of adaptation will be dressed up in the skillful presentations of the public relation firms employed by Exxon Mobil.
The Chief Executive Officer of Exxon Mobil recently stated: “climate change was a great challenge, but it could be solved by adapting to risks such as higher sea levels and changing conditions for agriculture.”
Global warming? A manageable problem once we turn the engineers loose on adaptation. To quote this gentleman again: “It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”
There are other effective theorists of adaptation. Bjorn Lomberg has a similar approach: we can manage problems of climate change much as we have managed in the past.
He made this comment in connection with rising sea levels. Certainly the Dutch have adapted to rising sea levels: the tragic 1953 flood in the Netherlands has made them very mindful of this necessity. And one can assume that New Orleans will be prepared for another Katrina. There will be adaptation, and this adaptation will be more effective where motivated by tragic experiences such as these floods. Could it be there is a correlation between the number of victims and the thoroughness of adaptation?
And what about those tragedies that occur in poorer countries that lack the adaptation skills and resources of the Dutch or the Americans? Assuming developed countries don’t say “It’s your problem not ours!”, can we excuse our inaction by financial aid after the event?
Are we burying important moral issues in appeals to engineering and technology? For our position on these questions go to Walter Pitman’s views on Total Connectedness.
Read our previous reference to Lomberg’s defence of adaptation: