Newly released documents reveal European oil and gas company Shell has known about global warming for at least three decades – but continued to drill oil and fuel climate change skepticism, even when reports warned that "by the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation.”
The fact that a large multinational company hid inconvenient research to serve their own self-interest while continuing to push their product at the expense of the environment (and, ultimately, their consumers) might not be the most surprising news. After all, in 2015, leaked papers confirmed US energy giant Exxon has been climate-change aware for almost 40 years while spending a fortune disseminating false information and casting doubt on accepted climate science.
But these new documents suggest an industry-wide conspiracy to bury – or, at the very least, play down – the damage being done to the environment from the burning of fossil fuels.
The first of the Shell reports, called "The Greenhouse Effect", dates back to 1988. Not only does it reveal the energy company knew about climate change and that fossil fuel burning was to blame, it shows they were actively investigating the phenomena. Shell set up an internal climate science program before the UN established the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988.
“Although CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere through several natural processes… the main cause of increasing CO2 concentrations is considered to be fossil fuel burning,” the report, now published on Climate Files, acknowledged.
It advised looking at policy options as early as possible, realizing that unregulated climate change could cause sea levels to rise, oceans to acidify, and mass migration to take place as people try to avoid the worst effects of global warming.