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Tillerson Straddles the Fence on Climate Change. What Now?

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the US Department of State said that the United States should stay involved in the Paris climate accord but then said that the science behind global warming has yet to be fully decided. The comments came yesterday at his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

“No one country is going to solve this alone,” said Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil. “I think we’re better served by being at the table than leaving the table.”

As the leader of Exxon, Tillerson has come around and said that fossil fuels contribute to man-made climate change. It’s a position foisted upon the would-be choice to head the State Department in part because of two investigations against his former company by two state attorney generals. It’s also because his company is diversifying its fuel mix, which includes not just natural gas but also some carbon capture technologies.

Tillerson’s fence-straddling comments, though, run counter to President-elect Trump’s view — that climate science is a “Chinese hoax”. While Tillerson says it is better to be involved in the Paris discussions, Trump has said he would cancel the agreement.

When questioned specifically about his beliefs on man-made global warming yesterday, Tillerson irked Democratic senators by saying the science is yet to be settled and that the no one country can solve the problem. He said that to unilaterally try to tackle the issue would be to put the nation at an economic disadvantage.

It “requires a global response,” he said, which is true. The question, however, is whether the United States should lead. In the event it does not, the European nations and China have said they are ready to fill that role. 

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