These days it's hard not to be at least a little pessimistic about the future of the planet, especially when it comes to climate change. Not only has the President of the United States surrounded himself with a cabinet of climate deniers, his right hand man, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, is the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, one of the largest petroleum companies in the world.
Yet based on a 1991 mini-documentary produced by another petroleum giant, Royal Dutch Shell, it seems that at least some of those with their fingers deepest in the petrol-pie weren't nearly as blasé about the dangers of climate change a quarter century ago.
Shell's 28-minute video, called Climate of Concern, resurfaced yesterday thanks to online Dutch newspaper The Correspondent . As noted by The Guardian, which also obtained a confidential internal Shell report on climate change from 1986, the film was remarkably accurate in its predictions about the future of climate change, and its warning was "endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990."
Yet in spite of the video's dire message, it ends on a hopeful note, asking, "whether or not the threat of global warming proves as grave as the scientists predict, is it too much to hope that it might act as the stimulus, the catalyst, of technical and economic cooperation?"
Unfortunately, the answer would seem to be no. Despite Shell's prescient take on rising sea levels, global temperatures, and resource scarcity in the developing world, it appears the company didn't heed its own warnings. As noted by The Guardian, in the last 25 years, Shell has invested in developing ecologically devastating tar sand operations, explored the Arctic, spent over $20 million on anti-climate lobbying, and looks hopefully to the future of fracking, despite its own report from 1998 suggesting that fracking wouldn't be enough to meet necessary climate goal.
While such actions might be expected of an oil company, its awareness that "the problems and dilemmas of climatic change concern us all" over a quarter century ago makes these actions feel particularly callous in retrospect.
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