In Congress on Wednesday, Sen. Tom Udall questioned Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Secretary of State.
Tillerson just resigned from his position as CEO of ExxonMobil.
Udall questioned Tillerson about his position on climate change, asking: “While you were CEO of Exxon, the company website stated, ‘The risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action. Increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere are having a warming effect. There is broad scientific and policy consensus that action must be taken to further quantify and assess the risks.’ I understand that if confirmed you will be serving under President-elect Trump. But do you still personally stand by this statement today, yes or no?”
Tillerson responded that climate change is real and warrants action: “I do not take exception to that statement,” Tillerson said. “I might articulate it a little differently as to my personal views.”
Udall also asked if Tillerson believed that U.S. interests are better served by remaining committed to the Paris Agreement, an agreement countries of the world came to in 2015 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Trump has stated that under his administration, the U.S. would abandon that agreement.
In his testimony, Tillerson said that the U.S. is better served by having a “seat at the table” in addressing climate change.
Udall also questioned the nominee about how he would treat State Department employees working on climate change policy.
In December, members of Trump’s transition team submitted questions to the U.S. Department of Energy. Two of those questions asked for the names of all employees working on climate policy issues. The questionnaire was disavowed later by Trump, but caused worry among federal employees at many different agencies.
“Do you plan, or would you support, any efforts to persecute, sideline, or otherwise retaliate against career State Department employees who have worked on climate change in the past?” Udall asked.
Tillerson answered only: “That would be a pretty unhelpful way to get started.”
As NM Political Report wrote last year, for decades, ExxonMobil countered warnings from its own experts who had long cautioned about the link between carbon emissions and climate change.
In investigations published last year, reporters at InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times unearthed Exxon documents that show the energy giant’s own scientists had raised concerns about the impacts of the fossil fuel industry on climate change.
As early as 1978, for example, a senior scientist at the company said carbon releases from the burning of fossil fuels was influencing the global climate. He warned that “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”
Instead of addressing the problems, the company funded a decades-long effort to discredit climate scientists and mislead the public.
Udall also asked Tillerson about his plans to limit involvement with ExxonMobil while working in the Trump administration and has urged him to make his tax returns public.