We're all getting sophisticated enough to agree that climate change is real, climate-deniers are wrong and someone should do something about it. Good for us. But what any of that actually means is still a major point of debate. On Monday the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a new report detailing the ways that a harsher planet could mess with society.
On the same day that report was released, our local Exxon released its own, unprecedented report, also acknowledging that the risks of climate change. "The risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action," William Colton, Exxon's vice president of corporate strategic planning, said in a press release.
The UN and Exxon reports both agree that adapting to climate change is important, that the population is getting bigger and demands for energy will increase with all the new people. But the reports are mostly pretty different. Exxon's climate change report is the climate change report for winners, more or less giving the middle finger to the renewable industry and predicting that fossil fuel sales are "highly unlikely" to be curbed by government regulation.
The UN's report, by contrast, is a little sad.
Activist shareholders would like to see Exxon act a little less cocky about its fossil fuels sales. "We'd like to see the company be more proactive in developing other types of energy sources and becoming a true energy company in a way that doesn't negatively impact the world," Danielle Fugere, president of environmental shareholder group As You Sow, tells Unfair Park.
Here are some of the big differences in the UN's and Exxon's dueling climate change reports. Decide for yourself which one is a happier read.
Poverty: UN:Predicts that climate change will make poverty worse: "Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger." Exxon: Focuses on how poor people use more energy when they get wealthier: "People and economies need energy to grow and thrive."
Food UN:It's really complicated: "All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability" Exxon:Fossil fuels make food better: "A refrigerator uses energy to keep your food safe to consume and your oven uses energy to cook it."
Importance of Government Regulations UN:. Really Important: "Local government and the private sector are increasingly recognized as critical to progress in adaptation ..." Exxon: Regulations are OK but energy sources should determined by the market. Also, regulations can be very risky, so be careful: "... trading can still be hindered by less-recognized artificial barriers such as excessive regulations and government restrictions."
Alternatives to fossil fuels UN: In its summary for policy makers, the report advocates a number of measures to deal with climate change, including "an emphasis on energy efficiency, progressing toward renewable energy as an alternative to non-renewable fossil fuel resources." Exxon: Expects renewables to do well by 2040, but not that well: "Renewables [will] grow fastest, but still account for less than 5% of total energy."
Conclusion: UN: A world that doesn't prepare for climate change is a world not fit for humans: "The world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate ... there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming." Exxon: A world without Exxon is a world not fit for humans: "All energy sources, including carbon-based fuels, are necessary to meet future global energy demand growth as society manages the risks of climate change."