Shell's "Inconvenient Truth"

Whoever thought that Shell has always denied climate change, should see this movie they made in 1991 and that was released on youtube today. It has been translated in various languages and they actually circulated the film widely in universities and schools in the '90s but it was later forgotten.


I saw that this had appeared, it is quite shocking. We have known the science for a quarter of a century, and still so many people are adamantly pursuing a course that will only lead to the destruction of us all.


I think this is also a hopeful sign. Apparently Shell actively warned against climate change already back then, but for some reason they later took another stance (probably money). These companies are not just one person, there are many people and the boards of such companies change too and with that the direction a company takes. The fact that they are bringing this out now, not hiding the faults they made themselves in the past, shows their willingness to go into a new direction. Recently, Shell’s topman Ben van Beurden also commented negatively on Trump’s plans, saying that even Trump cannot stop or revert the movement toward renewable energy sources.

It is easy to blame multinationals, but we all use the oil products they produce. They just react to the market forces and if the consumers demand change long enough, they will change. Of course within a large company, such change will not be easy and it takes time, but I think the the sounds that are coming out of Shell at the moment show that they have reached a point where they are willing to actively move into a new direction.

The same we saw the last week with Unilever, where there are internal struggles between the Dutch board (mainly women!) and their stockholders, who want to invest in durability, while the British and US stockholders wants to focus on higher profits. Years ago, it was unthinkable that such companies would even consider to invest in durability at the expense of profits.


From 1958:


Gosh … no idea they already knew that far back!

Haven’t watched the movie, but this season premiere of Vice had a segment about a lawsuit against ExxonMobil brought by its own shareholders (article from another site here.) Vice drew parallels between climate change denial and past denial about the harms of tobacco. In both cases, the companies knew about the dangers long ago, but did not inform the public for the obvious reason that it would be bad for business. Even worse, they shell out money to hire people to deceive and mislead the public—some of the same exact people who were shilling for the tobacco companies decades ago are now shilling for the fossil fuel companies.


But Shell obviously did inform the public, at least for a little while until the board changed.

In the Netherlands and Belgium it is the public who filed a lawsuit against their respective governments for not meeting climate targets. In the Netherlands they have already won the case, in Belgium it is still ongoing but there are currently nearly 100.000 people part of it.


Hi Bhante,

I would bet dollars to donuts that Shell knew about it much earlier. Exxon apparently knew about it since 1977. And that’s just what we can prove from the documents we have access to. How much more information do we not have access to or has been destroyed?

These are top companies employing top minds. Dollars to donuts they’ve been researching this issue very seriously for a long time because it could greatly impact their business—as it has. And they certainly have had the resources to do it. I doubt we’ll ever know the full picture of what they’ve known and for how long.


It’s really astonishing. From the 19th century, there has been a battle between the scientists and the commercial interests, as well as the conservative Christians. For the Christians, the idea that the world was very old and had changed was of a piece with evolution, and quite opposed to the short, static vision found in the Bible.

But the basic ideas of the greenhouse effect were current by the mid-19th century. And, as so often, a forgotten woman was at the forefront.

Foote conducted early work on the warming effect of the sun on air, including how this was increased by carbonic acid gas (carbon dioxide), later called the greenhouse effect, which was presented by Prof. Joseph Henry at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in 1856. A contemporary account describes the occasion as follows: Prof. Henry then read a paper by Mrs. Eunice Foote, prefacing it with a few words, to the effect that science was of no country and of no sex. The sphere of woman embraces not only the beautiful and the useful, but the true. (Wells, 1857, p. 159-160, cited by Raymond Sorenson.)

Foote’s work preceded the better-known work of John Tyndall on the warming of CO2 by infrared radiation by three years. Similar experiments are taught in modern schools

The basic science was developed in the 19th century, but at the time was purely theoretical. The evidential basis was established through the 50s and 60s, and was pretty much settled by the 80s.