The Hypocrisy Of Oil Companies: Shell Knew The Dangers Of Climate Change Way Back In 1991
“If the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected … Action now is seen as the only safe insurance.” – Shell Oil Company, 1991.
A climate change awareness film from 1991 has resurfaced. The video was obtained by The Correspondent, a Dutch online journalism platform, and shared with The Guardian.
The full film can be watched here.
As significant as the video’s warnings and concerns are, the story is not about Shell’s 1991 video; the story is about the abject hypocrisy of Shell.
Shell Oil Company
Shell Oil Company is the United States-based subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, a multinational which is amongst the largest oil companies in the world.
Shell Oil Company is one of America’s largest oil and natural gas producers, natural gas marketers, gasoline marketers, and petrochemical manufacturers.
Shell’s warnings in the video
The 28-minute video – named ‘Climate Concern’ – warns of the dangers of climate change and lauds commercial-scale solar and wind power that already existed at the time.
Shell warned of climate change “at a rate faster than at any time since the end of the ice age – change too fast perhaps for life to adapt, without severe dislocation.”
“Tropical islands barely afloat even now, first made inhabitable, and then obliterated beneath the waves … coastal lowlands everywhere suffering pollution of precious groundwater, on which so much farming and so many cities depend … In a crowded world subject to such adverse shifts of climate, who would take care of such greenhouse refugees?”
The climate change warning was one “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990 … What they foresee is not a steady and even warming overall, but alterations to the familiar patterns of climate, and the increasing frequency of abnormal weather … It is thought that warmer seas could make destructive [storm] surges more frequent and even more ferocious.”
“Whether or not the threat of global warming proves as grave as the scientists predict, is it too much to hope as it might act as the stimulus – the catalyst – to a new era of technical and economic cooperation? … Our numbers are many, and infinitely diverse. But the problems and dilemmas of climatic change concern us all.”
According to The Guardian, the film was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities, but is believed to have been unseen for many years.
Shell’s unforgivable hypocrisy
Shell Oil Company has been one of the biggest polluters of the environment for years. Furthermore, their active campaign against climate scientists to cast doubts on the reality of global warming has contributed to the bizarre, unreasonable, and harmful prevalence of climate change denial – an anti-science belief in sections of the public and politics.
Despite knowing of the harmful effects of climate change, Shell proceeded to greenlight several highly polluting tar sand operations exploration in the Arctic. It has also cited fracking as a “future opportunity” (despite its 1998 data showing exploitation of unconventional oil and gas by fracking was incompatible with climate goals).
“The film shows that Shell understood that the threat was dire, potentially existential for civilisation, more than a quarter of a century ago,” said Jeremy Leggett, a solar power entrepreneur and former geologist who had earlier researched shale deposits with Shell and BP funding. “I see to this day how they doggedly argue for rising gas use, decades into the future, despite the clear evidence that fossil fuels have to be phased out completely … I honestly feel that this company is guilty of a modern form of crime against humanity. They will point out that they have behaved no differently than their peers, BP, Exxon and Chevron. For people like me, of which there are many, that is no defence.”