[Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson] You know, if you ask the average person on the street about U.S. energy, and U.S. oil, in particular, our situation, most Americans would say, oh, we're energy poor; we don't have enough oil, we don't have enough natural gas. And that's been the line for years and years. And yet the United States today remains the third-largest oil producer in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia and Russia, and a sizable gap between numbers four, five and six. We are an energy leader in oil production in the world. And if you look at the remaining resource base in the United States, adding in now what we know we can recover through these technology applications, we have sufficient resources to carry us well into the latter part of this century at current production rates.
Similarly on the natural gas side, United States, given the seasonality of the year, at any time is either the world's largest natural gas producer or the second-largest natural gas producer. We go back and forth with Russia. So to say the U.S. is energy poor is simply not accurate.
QUESTIONER: Hi, I'm David Fenton (ph).... You know, if we burn all these reserves you've talked about, you can kiss future generations good-bye...
TILLERSON: Well, let me -- let me say that we have studied that issue and continue to study it as well. We are and have been long-time participants in the IPCC panels. We author many of the IPCC subcommittee papers, and we peer-review most of them. So we are very current on the science, our understanding of the science, and importantly -- and this is where I'm going to take exception to something you said -- the competency of the models to predict the future. We've been working with a very good team at MIT now for more than 20 years on this area of modeling the climate, which, since obviously it's an area of great interest to you, you know and have to know the competencies of the models are not particularly good.
Now you can plug in assumptions on many elements of the climate system that we cannot model -- and you know what they all are. We cannot model aerosols; we cannot model clouds, which are big, big factors in how the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere affect temperatures at surface level. The models we need -- and we are putting a lot of money supporting people and continuing to work on these models, try and become more competent with the models. But our ability to predict, with any accuracy, what the future's going to be is really pretty limited.
So our approach is we do look at the range of the outcomes and try and understand the consequences of that, and clearly there's going to be an impact. So I'm not disputing that increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere is going to have an impact. It'll have a warming impact. The -- how large it is is what is very hard for anyone to predict. And depending on how large it is, then projects how dire the consequences are.
As we have looked at the most recent studies coming -- and the IPCC reports, which we -- I've seen the drafts; I can't say too much because they're not out yet. But when you predict things like sea level rise, you get numbers all over the map. If you take a -- what I would call a reasonable scientific approach to that, we believe those consequences are manageable. They do require us to begin to exert -- or spend more policy effort on adaptation. What do you want to do if we think the future has sea level rising four inches, six inches? Where are the impacted areas, and what do you want to do to adapt to that?
And as human beings as a -- as a -- as a species, that's why we're all still here. We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around -- we'll adapt to that. It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don't -- the fear factor that people want to throw out there to say we just have to stop this, I do not accept.
I do believe we have to -- we have to be efficient and we have to manage it, but we also need to look at the other side of the engineering solution, which is how are we going to adapt to it. And there are solutions. It's not a problem that we can't solve.
MURRAY: But let's stick with that for just a second. I mean, Exxon Mobil, before you became CEO, was very aggressive and overt in challenging and mounting a public relations campaign against the sorts of things that Mr. Fenton (sp) just managed. You changed that when you came in. But I guess the question I'd ask -- I was at my daughter's graduation last weekend, and the graduation speaker said that global warming is the great challenge of your generation. Do you agree with that? Would you agree that it's in -- at least one of the top five challenges of the generation, or do you personally think that it's been way overblown?
TILLERSON: No, I think it's -- I think it's a great challenge, but I think it's a question back to priorities. And I think, as I just described based on our understanding of the system and the models and the science and that there are engineering solutions to adapting, that we think it's solvable.
And I think there are much more pressing priorities that we as a -- as a human being race and society need to deal with. There are still hundreds of millions, billions of people living in abject poverty around the world. They need electricity. They need electricity they can count on, that they can afford. They need fuel to cook their food on that's not animal dung. There are more people's health being dramatically affected because they could -- they don't even have access to fossil fuels to burn. They'd love to burn fossil fuels because their quality of life would rise immeasurably, and their quality of health and the health of their children and their future would rise immeasurably. You'd save millions upon millions of lives by making fossil fuels more available to a lot of the part of the world that doesn't have it, and do it in the most efficient ways, using the most efficient technologies we have today...