It might not come as a surprise that oil companies knew that energy consumption of fossil fuels negatively drives climate change and increases pollution on earth. Just like tobacco companies knew for years that their product caused cancer and other illnesses. Both industries invested in research that downplayed the dangers and risks to humans and the planet of smoking tobacco and consuming (extracting, refining, and distributing) oil.
Vatan Hüzeir, a doctoral student at Erasmus University Rotterdam, has just released a Twitter thread and article about an "in-depth research and analysis project of Changerism." Changerism is a "Think-and-do-tank in climate change, energy transition." The research, "Dirty Pearls: exposing Shell's hidden legacy of climate change accountability, 1970-1990," highlights findings into Shell corporation's climate research and the denials that fossil fuels are dangerous for the earth and its inhabitants.
As explained by Mathew Green at De Smog, "Compiled by Dutch climate activist Vatan Hüzeir, and reviewed by DeSmog and Dutch investigative journalism platform Follow The Money, the documents show how Shell was actively supporting research that clearly underscored the dangers posed by burning its fossil fuel products from the mid-1970s — years earlier than previously thought.
Even as the company's awareness of the potentially devastating consequences of climate change grew, the documents show how Shell shaped a series of influential industry-backed publications that downplayed or omitted key risks; emphasized scientific uncertainties; and pushed for more fossil fuels, particularly coal. This impressive history shows for just how long climate issues were known by Shell personnel," said Ben Franta, senior research fellow in climate litigation at the University of Oxford. "Despite internal awareness, the company systematically downplayed the problem to the public, instead promoting more and more fossil fuel use despite the dangers. Now, five decades later, Shell continues to dawdle and delay."
You can check out the primary documents and files at Climate Files.
Green highlights one specific tool of Shell's propaganda campaign, the half-hour film Time For Energyproduced in 1981. "The 30-minute film makes no mention of the coal assets the Anglo-Dutch oil major had acquired in an effort to diversify in the wake of the 1973 oil shock. Nor does it refer to a topic that was of unequivocal scientific concern at the time: The "greenhouse effect," or what is now known as climate change."
For more on how the oil industry denies its practices are destroying the planet, check out PBS Frontline's documentary "The Power of Big Oil Part One: Denial."