Quantcast

What Shell Knew About Climate Change in 1991

Climate

By Nadia Prupis

Oil giant Shell also knew of the dangers of climate change decades ago, while it continued to lobby against climate legislation and push for fossil fuel development, a joint investigation by The Guardian and the Dutch newspaper The Correspondent revealed Tuesday.


Shell created a confidential report in 1986 which found that the changes brought about by global warming could be "the greatest in recorded history" and warned of an impact "on the human environment, future living standards and food supplies, [that] could have major social, economic and political consequences."

The company also made a 28-minute educational film in 1991, Climate of Concern, that warned oil extraction and use could lead to extreme weather, famines and mass displacement, and noted that the dangers of climate change were "endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists." The film was developed for public viewing, particularly for schools.

"Our energy consuming way of life may be causing climatic changes with adverse consequences for us all," the video states.

"If the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected," it continues. "Global warming is not yet certain, but many think that to wait for final proof would be irresponsible. Action now is seen as the only safe insurance."

Despite its own warnings, Shell invested billions of dollars into tar sands operations and exploration in the Arctic. It has also devoted millions to lobbying against climate legislation.

The revelations about Shell come after a separate investigation into ExxonMobil revealed that company had also been waging a climate science suppression campaign and burying its own reports on the global warming impacts of fossil fuel use for decades. Exxon, whose former CEO is now U.S. secretary of state, is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorneys general for allegedly lying to investors about the risks of climate change.

In 2016, a group of lawmakers asked the Department of Justice to look into Shell's knowledge of global warming as well.

"They knew. Shell told the public the truth about climate change in 1991 and they clearly never got round to telling their own board of directors," Tom Burke of the green think-tank E3G, told the Guardian on Tuesday. "Shell's behavior now is risky for the climate but it is also risky for their shareholders. It is very difficult to explain why they are continuing to explore and develop high-cost reserves."

Bill McKibben, co-founder of the environmental advocacy group 350.org, added:

The fact that Shell understood all this in 1991 and that a quarter-century later it was trying to open up the Arctic to oil-drilling, tells you all you'll ever need to know about the corporate ethic of the fossil fuel industry. Shell made a big difference in the world—a difference for the worse.

Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations' climate change chief, said action by fossil fuel companies is critical to combating climate change.

"They are a big part of the global economy, so if we do not get them on board, we will not be able to achieve this transformation of the economy we need," she said.

Watch the entire film here:

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Waterloo Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London. Martin Hearn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Money talks. And today it had something to say about the impending global climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sam Cooper

By Sam Cooper

Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
A NOAA research vessel at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2018. NOAA

The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Damage at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from the 2016 occupation. USFWS

By Tara Lohan

When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.

Read More Show Less
Computer model projection of temperature anomalies across Europe on June 27. Temperature scale in °C. Tropicaltidbits.com

A searing heat wave has begun to spread across Europe, with Germany, France and Belgium experiencing extreme temperatures that are set to continue in the coming days.

Read More Show Less
Skull morphology of hybrid "narluga" whale. Nature / Mikkel Høegh Post

In the 1980s, a Greenlandic subsistence hunter shot and killed a whale with bizarre features unlike any he had ever seen before. He knew something was unique about it, so he left its abnormally large skull on top of his toolshed where it rested until a visiting professor happened upon it a few years later.

Read More Show Less