Tuesday, March 21, 2017
In the past month, the Guardian rediscovered a 28-minute film, called Climate of Concern, that Shell Oil made in 1991. Made for the public and particularly for schools and universities, Shell readily acknowledges the grave reality of climate change, warning of extreme floods, famines, and climate refugees. Shell also affirmed the broad consensus of scientists who agree that man-made carbon emissions are warming the planet and changing climate patterns.
Twenty-six years later, this is a stunning revelation given Shell relentless commitment to growing fossil fuel extractions, including their effort to drill in the pristine waters of the Arctic Ocean despite widespread disapproval and protests. Yet, Shell's inaction and obstruction to address climate change is criminal negligent and heartless. Shell knew that what they were doing would eventually cause global havoc and destruction on a scale not yet experienced by humanity. Yet in the end, the allure of profits in the tens of billions, and its associated power and fortune, Shell remained firmly in the business of oil and gas.
A not long ago history offers a comparable action to deceive the public for an industry's benefit: Big Tobacco. Back in the 60s, Science had firmly proven a casual link between tobacco use, cancer, and other associated health risks. Yet Philip Morris and other cigarette companies hired big time public relation firms to muddy the science of tobacco use while using political and media clout to marginalize the other side while accruing grassroots sympathy and support. In this instance, science eventually won in America yet most people are unaware that Big Tobacco continues to prosper on a global scale where they resist, and even sue, other countries' efforts to provide ample warning labels with the health risks associated with smoking.
In the same light, Big Oil's actively funded climate skeptic campaigns through conservative, business friendly think tanks and well-paid scientists who are willing to change the scientific consensus. They've given huge sums of money to politician's campaign efforts who will do their bidding to kill legislation that limits their business or gives incentives to clean energy sources like wind, solar, and tidal. Similarly, Big Oil is always ready to go to battle with environmental and social justice activist who are trying to protect the public health and preserve natural land and resources.
We would think there would be utter outrage following the discovery of "Climate of Concern". This film itself says how it would be inexcusable to not act on such dire warnings that will come to fruition by the end of the century. Yet, they knew and did nothing! Much of the silence can be attributed to a corporate-owned media that barely pays attention to news related to climate change and is currently transfixed by a president and his administration that are hell bent to tear down the supporting beams of our democracy that will surely benefit the most powerful and influential while our nation's poorest will shoulder the most burden.
By as early as 1990 and likely much earlier, Shell Oil knew man-made carbon emissions were slowly heating the plane and that horrific consequences would occur if nothing or little was done. Through both Democratic and Republican administrations, Big Oil has remained at the top of the corporate food chain with obscene profits and unfettered power. I hope that someday this film will be used as evidence in a court of law, holding Big Oil legally accountable for the loss of life, suffering, and displacement that is already happening now and exponentially into our future. Shell KNEW!