Sen. Jeff Merkley Exposes Trump’s Secretary of State Nominee on Climate Change

In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing yesterday, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) posed a series of questions about climate change to President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, the former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

Merkley noted that Oregon’s forests are burning more often because of climate-related beetle infestations and that oysters are struggling in water acidified as a result of humans burning fossil fuels.

He pushed the oil man for his views on whether such changes—and droughts in places such as Syria—will be contribute to economic and national security threats.

Vox writer David Roberts says Tillerson’s answers showed him to be a “lukewarmer.”

“He acknowledges that carbon emissions are having a warming effect, but says we can’t predict what will happen, we can’t live without fossil fuels, and we can adapt to whatever climate change does occur,” Roberts writes.

This morning, Merkley announced his opposition to Tillerson’s nomination.

“Mr. Tillerson said ‘moral clarity’ is a key to US foreign policy and I agree,” Merkley said in a statement. “But during Mr. Tillerson’s time in the senior management of ExxonMobil, the company engaged in a pattern of activities that undermine any claim he can make to moral clarity.”

Here’s how Roberts describes the exchange between Merkley and Tillerson (the story includes a short C-Span video of Merkley questioning Tillerson).

          “No one is under any illusion that Trump’s administration is going to lead on climate change. But Tillerson came armed with just the sort of soothing, reasonable-sounding cliches that are typically enough to calm the fears of politicians on this subject,” Roberts writes. “But Merkley genuinely cares about climate change. And he knows something about it. He was willing to do what very few US politicians (or journalists!) will do, which is push a public figure to go deeper than climate cliches. Thanks to Merkley’s patient efforts, it was made clear that Tillerson is a fossil fuel supporter who feels no need to act with any urgency on climate change.”