It has been more than a year and a half since information came out revealing that Exxon-Mobil executives were made aware of the dangers of global climate change and the role played by fossil fuels more than 40 years ago. This week, a Netherlands-based news agency, The Correspondent, reported that Shell Oil was also informed of the environmental impact of its products, and like Exxon-Mobil, willfully chose to put revenues and profits ahead of the future of humanity and the planet.
The year was 1991. The film, produced by the Shell’s own film and video department, was titled “Climate of Concern.” In no uncertain terms, the narrative warned of climate change accelerating “at a rate faster than at any time since the end of the ice age,” with consequences ranging from long-term droughts to flooding that threatened the lives of millions. While the predictions were based on computer-generated simulations and were therefore inexact, they all added up to the same warning:
“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 surges [in weather] more frequent and even more ferocious.”
This same warning was presented in a report submitted to the United Nations several months earlier. Even before that, a 1986 report had warned that such climate changes “may be the greatest in history.”
Toward the end of the 28-minute film, it was acknowledged that “global warming is not yet certain,” but that “to wait for final proof would be irresponsible…action now is the only safe assurance.” In the end, the narrator made the following statement:
“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?”
Apparently, it was. While Shell has made token investments in solar and wind energy technologies over the years, those investments are minuscule compared to the massive amounts the company has put into exploration and drilling for oil and gas over the past quarter-century.
In the meantime, Shell Oil – until 2015, a devoted corporate member of the Koch Brothers’ infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – put massive resources into sowing doubt, covering up evidence, buying lawmakers, and writing legislation that would favor fossil fuels over green energy. Shell’s attacks on renewable energy and its fight to preserve its fossil fueled profits haven’t been confined to the U.S., either; in 2014, the company successfully lobbied to hamstring the European Union’s efforts to cut back on greenhouse emissions.
In response to these charges, a former Shell executive complains that he “wouldn’t single out the oil industry,” adding that “government and others have some responsibility” as well. Considering Shell’s activities with ALEC and how little Shell has done to develop alternative energy sources, that statement rings hollow.
The actions of Shell, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and BP constitute nothing less than crimes against humanity – and should be regarded and treated as such.