Climate Clash of Titans: Pope Francis vs. ExxonMobil

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 6/22/2015 01:30:00 AM
On climate change, oil and gas companies are pretty much in the same position nowadays that tobacco companies were in regard to smoking's adverse health effects during the Fifties. Just as cigarette makers denied any link between smoking and lung cancer, certain energy firms like to downplay that man-made climate change is occurring. Bloomberg has an interesting story regarding how Pope Francis' forthcoming visit to the United States is prompting Americans to sway them to their positions on social and, yes, environmental issues. Last week, Pope Francis of course released his long-awaited encyclical on mankind's responsibility regarding environmental stewardship. While it is of course required reading for Catholics, other readers are certainly encouraged to see how scientific knowledge can buttress theological argumentation.

Prior to its release, ExxonMobil sent emissaries to the Vatican in hopes that Pope Francis would tne down the man-made climate change aspect:
In the months leading up to the release of the encyclical, conservative American Catholics and even the oil and gas industry sent emissaries to the Vatican hoping to dissuade the Holy Father from weighing in on climate change, arguing that the science isn’t settled and that cutting back on fossil fuel use would hurt rather than help the world’s poor. Exxon Mobil sent several delegations to meet with Vatican officials, and a conservative Chicago-based think tank, the Heartland Institute, held a whole counter-conference on alternative climate science in Rome at the end of April. But the Pope was apparently unmoved, and the encyclical states “there is a very consistent scientific consensus that indicates that we are witnessing a worrying warming of the climatic system…Humanity is called to take conscience of the need to change life styles, ways of production and consumption to fight this warming, or at least the human causes that produce it or accentuate it.”
No arguments from me on Pope Francis' main points. However, Exxon is apparently hardening its climate change denial. In a recent shareholders meeting, its CEO pooh-poohed climate change in keeping with the anti-science stance prevalent in the United States:
The CEO of one of the world’s largest oil companies downplayed the effects of climate change at his company’s annual meeting Wednesday, telling shareholders his firm hadn’t invested in renewable energy because “We choose not to lose money on purpose.” “Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity,” ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson told the meeting, pointing to technologies that can combat inclement weather “that may or may not be induced by climate change.”
Playing up the religious angle, ExxonMobil had also been petitioned by a Milwaukee-based Catholic group concerned about environmental matters. The company slammed the Catholic organization's efforts to place an expert on climate change on the board of directors:
At the meeting, shareholders sided with the company’s board and voted against a measure proposed by Father Michael Crosby and Sister Pat Daly, representatives of a Milwaukee-based Roman Catholic organization, to add a climate change expert to the company’s board. In a letter to shareholders, Tillerson and his colleagues wrote that “to set aside one seat for an environmental specialist or for any single attribute or area of expertise would, in our view, not be in the best interests of the company or its shareholders because it would dilute the breadth needed by all directors to make informed decisions for the company.”
As obstructionist and anti-scientific as mainstream American conservatives are on this issue, look at how Republican candidates for president stack up, you do have to wonder if the Catholics among them have anywhere left to hide after Pope Francis made clear where Church teaching stands on the subject matter.

Whether American leaders will keep backing sunset industries like oil and gas extraction is certainly interesting to watch as the world's wealthiest nation is decidedly backward-looking on this issue. When even Saudi Arabia--a nation almost entirely dependent on this single industry--admits that the days of fossil fuels are almost up, why the likes of ExxonMobil persist in denying the world has changed is puzzling and disturbing.

At any rate, a showdown looms when Pope Francis visits the US of A.