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By Janene Pieters on February 28, 2017 – 09:41

Dutch oil and gas giant Shell has known about the dangers of climate change for over 30 years, yet still continues to work with fossil fuels and does its best to frustrate an effective approach to the climate problems facing the world, according to a reconstruction done by De Correspondent and published on Tuesday.

The reconstruction is based on confidential internal documents and an investigation into Shell’s lobbying, reports. For the reconstruction climate journalist Jelmer Mommers investigated Shell and its environmental policy for over a year. He spoke to dozens of Shell employees about how they perceive the future of the company. The full reconstruction, in Dutch, can be found here.

Internal documents show that Shell already knew in 1986 that oil and gas consumption could disrupt the climate. The company warned that “the relatively rapid and dramatic changes in the Earth’s climate has consequences for the living environment of people, their future standard of living and food supplies, with potentially major damage and economic and political consequences.” Shell went even further in the internal study: “It is possible that the environment will be affected to such an extent that some parts of the earth may become uninhabitable.”

Despite this warning Shell itself internally issued in 1986, Shell continued to invest in fossil fuels, according to De Correspondent. The Dutch company also consistently worked against ambitious climate policies, because it would be bad for business.

In 1991 Shell made the film Climate of Concern, warning of the dangerous consequences of global warming. The film states that “taking action now is the only safe insurance that we have”. When it released in 1991, the film was shown in schools and universities world wide. And in 1996 a briefing to the Shell management read that climate change is “the most serious and complex environmental issue we as humanity ever faced”.

But despite this knowledge, in the 90’s Shell participated in a campaign that deliberately sowed doubt about climate science, according to De Correspondent. The campaign was intended to avoid “Draconian” government intervention. 

For some time Shell claimed that it is working on developing “green initiatives”, but the budget the company devotes to climate-friendly technologies and energy sources hasn’t increased in the past 20 years.. Since 1998, this budget accounts for 1 percent of Shell’s total investment, according to De Correspondent’s own calculations. Over the same period Shell has invested tens of billions into extracting oil and gas from areas that were previously inaccessible, such as from the Arctic and deep-sea areas.

In response to De Correspondent’s reconstruction, Shell stated that their position on climate change is well known. “We recognize the climate challenge and the role that energy plays in ensuring a good quality of life”, the Dutch company said. “Shell will continue to call for effective policies to reduce CO2 emissions by businesses and consumers, and possibilities such as government-set CO2 rates and carbon trading systems.”

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