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Chevron chief dismisses climate change concerns

Climate change must come second to economic growth and the continued exploitation of fossil fuels according to Chevron CEO John Watson.

In an interview with news agency AP published in the Washington Post, Watson argues oil, gas and coal are the only “affordable” sources of energy available to governments.

Reports from the World Bank and accountants PwC published in November 2012 warned that the world is on a trajectory to warm 4-6°C by 2100, which scientists say would lead to catastrophic changes in the global climate, together with rising sea levels.

But Watson, whose company is planning to invest $33 billion in oil and gas exploration this year, says efforts to take direct action to address climate change, such as putting a tax on carbon, are inappropriate as they will put pressure on energy process and the world economy.

Chevron CEO John Watson: The company is the second largest investor-owned oil and gas business in the world, reportedly making a $24 billion profit in 2012

“It’s very difficult for the United States to go it alone. Watch what (other) governments do. The day-to-day decisions being made (show) that concern about climate change is less than other concerns that they have,” he said.

“China is racing by the US in greenhouse gas emissions. Germany is shutting down their nuclear power, the only energy source with zero carbon emissions that can be produced at scale. Japan, much the same way.

“Governments around the world are making the choice that the benefits of lifting people out of squalor are very important. And affordable energy is the way to get there. And that currently comes through oil, gas and coal.”

Watson also appeared to dismiss renewable technologies such as wind and solar, arguing against “big subsidies on technologies that we know are more expensive and won’t necessarily solve the issue”.

Instead he suggests instead governments should invest in energy efficiency and back “pre-commercial activity to try to advance some of these breakthrough technologies”, although these technologies were not named during the interview.

A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) released in 2011 revealed fossil fuel subsidies last year reached $523bn in 2011. Renewable energy subsidies during the same period totalled $88bn.

The IEA say energy efficiency measures could keep the door to limiting warming to 2°C open for an additional five years.

At present rates, this threshold of warming, beyond which scientists classify the changes as “dangerous”, will be reached in 2017, but efficiency could push this back to 2022.

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  • Jaume

    Should this be a true statement by Mr Watson, he is culturally and socially a complete illiterate

  • David Brettell

    > putting a tax on carbon, are inappropriate as they will put pressure on energy process and the world economy.

    Which I personally would much prefer than the alternative of catastrophic climate change for myself and my children. What other countries do, or do not do, has no bearing on what the USA and UK should do. Watson is only fooling himself with his words. Get a summary of the 2012 climate and environmental disasters perpetrated by weak governments and too strong corporations from http://www.monbiot.com.

  • mandas

    Well, there’s a surprise!!!

    The head of Chevron is a climate change denier. What a shock!

    Any real news guys?

  • J. Martin

    “Climate change must come second to economic growth and the continued exploitation of fossil fuels according to Chevron CEO John Watson.”

    Does this guy think he can make fossil fools out of all of us? Wait, wait… we DO go on buying the product he’s selling as if our very lives depended upon it. So perhaps he’s right. We should have one last party and die a good death.

  • Leslie Graham

    I’m not sure which is more irritating.
    That this man is so stupid as to believe what he says or that he thinks everyone else is so stupid as to believe what he says.
    The ill-informed dupes might be excused on account of the gulliblility and ignornace of basic physics but these fossil -fuel shills at the top know EXACTLY what they are doing and should be held to account for it.

  • David Williams

    This bloke’s a complete arsehole, and what we have come to expect from his ilk!

  • rich

    The Headline and the Article do not go together. I don’t believe he dismissed climate change, but he did prioritize economic growth over climate change.

  • rich

    I believe that climate change is a serious problem that will have great negative impact on us in the future. However, I think it is naive to believe that anyone is going to forgo fossil fuels to prevent a climate catastrophe. Only once in our history during WWII did we do such a thing, but climate change is not perceived to be the same magnitude of threat as the Germans or Japanese of WWII. Additionally, our culture is completely different than that era and there are few today who would agree to the sacrifices made back then.

    Face it. The only way we will have any meaningful action on climate change is when significant parts of the east coast are under frequent flood conditions brought on by merely tidal changes strong on-shore winds. Today’s storms like Sandy are considered an infrequent inconvenience.