Shell’s 1991 public information film, Climate of Concern. Photograph: the Correspondan
By Damian Carrington and Jelmer Mommers
Tuesday 28 February 2017
Critics say public information film shows Shell ‘understood the threat was dire, potentially existential for civilisation, more than a quarter of a century ago’
‘Shell knew’: oil giant’s 1991 film warned of climate change danger
Climate change “at a rate faster than at any time since the end of the ice age – change too fast perhaps for life to adapt, without severe dislocation”. That was the startling warning issued by the oil giant Shell more than a quarter of a century ago.
The company’s farsighted 1991 film, titled Climate of Concern, set out with crystal clarity how the world was warming and that serious consequences could well result.
“Tropical islands barely afloat even now, first made inhabitable, and then obliterated beneath the waves … coastal lowlands everywhere suffering pollution of precious groundwater, on which so much farming and so many cities depend,” says the film’s narrator, over disturbing images of people affected by natural disasters and famine. “In a crowded world subject to such adverse shifts of climate, who would take care of such greenhouse refugees?”
The film acknowledged the uncertainties in the computer model predictions at the time, but noted the various scenarios had “each prompted the same serious warning, a warning endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”.
“What they foresee is not a steady and even warming overall, but alterations to the familiar patterns of climate, and the increasing frequency of abnormal weather,” it cautioned. “It is thought that warmer seas could make destructive [storm] surges more frequent and even more ferocious.”
A family leaves their flooded home in Bangladesh. ‘In a crowded world subject to adverse shifts of climate, who would take care of such greenhouse refugees?’ says the film’s narrator. Photograph: Mufti Munir/AFP/Getty Images
“Whether or not the threat of global warming proves as grave as the scientists predict, is it too much to hope as it might act as the stimulus – the catalyst – to a new era of technical and economic cooperation?” the film concludes. “Our numbers are many, and infinitely diverse. But the problems and dilemmas of climatic change concern us all.”...
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