Opinion: Helping Exxon get serious about climate change
July 2, 2012
ExxonMobil's CEO says forget about global warming and this foolish quest for fossil fuel alternatives. Turns out there's plenty of ways to engineer our way out of the problem.
by Glenn Scherer
Blue Ridge Press
Last week, ExxonMobil chairman Rex Tillerson took a moment from counting his company's billions to tell those of us who are worried about climate change to chill. The problem, he said unequivocally, is "manageable."
Speaking at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York, the executive agreed that increasing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere will have "a warming impact." But then he told the entire human race to stop being crybabies about it. "We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this," he said. "It's an engineering problem, and it has an engineering solution."
In the spirit of Tillerson's tough love, can-do attitude, I offer 10 novel engineering adaptations to climate change – all yielding huge profits!
1. Go with the flow: Put the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work moving coastal cities onto really big rafts. So when storm surges hit and sea levels rise, those skyscrapers just lift off their moorings and float. Cars will need to float too, which will transform New York into the East Coast Venice. I'm still working out the bit about putting subways on rafts.
2. Global warming road trip: Gather up the nation's richest farmland and put it on wheels! That's right, when corn no longer grows in drought- and heat-taxed Kansas, U.S. agribusiness can just pick up the Great Plains and roll them north. I've already got the State Department working on the little quandary of what to do when the soil trucks get to the Canadian border.
3. Entertain ourselves out of the crisis: Put Disney to work to "imagineer" animatronic animals to replace all those that go extinct due to climate change. Display them at a giant Polar Bear Country Jamboree. Likewise, have Disney make a movie called "The Earth Is Just Fine!" showing that those glaciers haven't melted one bit. Lots of blue screen and an air-conditioned movie theater can go a long way to help us feel good about global warming's manageability.
4. Treat the oceans as you would a bad stomachache: Our oceans, which are currently processing massive tonnages of acidifying carbon dioxide, need our help. Engineering solution: mega-doses of Maalox, Tagamet, and Tums. Put antacids and Big Pharma to work to save the coral reefs from dissolving, and then watch those ingenious companies make a hefty profit.
5. Fireproof homes: The number of wildfires worldwide is soaring. But the solution is simple: Stop making houses out of wood! The next time nature spontaneously bursts into flame, just shut the windows, turn on the air conditioning, and watch those wildfires blaze through the neighborhood. Or go down to the basement family room and watch "The Earth Is Just Fine!"
6. The Arctic Astrodome: Many scientists fear that the Arctic will totally melt, stop reflecting sunlight, and cause the earth to get far hotter. No problem! We build a vast astrodome – made out of thick, shatterproof, white plastic – that fits neatly over the Arctic Ocean. It floats, but unlike ice, doesn't break up. So you can cover the whole darn thing with white-roofed mega-malls and turn what once was a useless ice sheet into a shopping destination.
7. Keep the critters cool: As global temps soar, some worry that animals will die from the heat. No problem! Just outfit those endangered critters with air-conditioned sun-block suits and water-filled sippy-hats. In fact, as temps soar higher, humans may want to don similar outfits. Fashion industry: get busy!
8. Encourage obesity: Stop trying to force people to be thin. Everybody knows that fat floats. So, supersize us! Get Frito Lay and McDonalds to do some real bioengineering! Then when your community receives its next record setting deluge, just float on down to Burger King to enhance your spare tire… or in this case, life preserver.
9. The 'Montgomery Burns' solution: I got this idea from watching the Simpsons. Let's launch a really big satellite to block the sun and cool us down. The sun-satellite could also serve as an in-orbit mall, fast food restaurant, and vacation destination.
10. Big Oil big idea: Since we're urging all the nation's other businesses to mobilize to adapt to climate change, how about if Exxon does its part, stops blocking climate legislation, and puts some of the $137 billion in profit it made last year into alternative energy solutions (like the solar leaf), or into compensating those who have had livelihoods and homes ravaged by global warming?
Come on Rex, do your part!
© Blue Ridge Press 2012. All rights reserved.
Have another engineering solution? E-mail Glenn Scherer, senior editor of Blue Ridge Press, at scherer [at] blueridgepress.com. The best ideas will be published in a future column.
Blue Ridge Press has been providing environmental commentary and news to U.S. newspapers since 2007. DailyClimate.org is a foundation-funded news service covering climate change. Views expressed are those of the author and not DailyClimate.org. Contact editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [at] dailyclimate.org
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