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When Oil and Climate Mix

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This post was posted under the former name ‘Saving Our Planet’

What happens when the formidable power of the oil industry collides with the unstoppable force of climate change?

In 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen expounded on climate change to a congressional hearing, and the UN created the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The world had begun to get serious about this problem.

Energy companies took climate change seriously too, in their own way. A group of companies, mainly energy and auto manufacturers, formed a lobbying group, the Global Climate Coalition, to promote doubt about climate change and block, ultimately successfully, the US ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

Oddly, the petroleum companies themselves took the reality of climate change seriously – for themselves!
While publicly sowing doubt about the science, they accounted for rising seas and more hurricanes in their engineering specifications for their offshore platforms, pipelines and roads. Shell Oil, for example, raised the height of its “Troll” North Sea natural gas platform in anticipation of the rising sea level.

Alas, the group’s lobbying efforts had a deeply polarizing effect on public opinion about climate change.

The Global Climate Coalition disbanded in 2002, satisfied that it had accomplished its work.

Shell Oil knew, told, and forgot

In 1991, Shell Oil produced a documentary film, Climate of Concern intended for showing in schools and universities. With totally modern insight, the film warned of climate refugees as well as extreme weather and famine, and concluded, “Action now is seen as the only safe insurance.”

And yet, Shell has continued to invest in oil reserves, tar sands, fracking and Arctic exploration. It has made some investments in low-carbon energy, but they are minimal.

But current fossil fuel reserves are several times greater than can be burned while avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Continuing to explore for reserves that cannot be used, or cannot be exploited without catastrophic consequences, is irrational behaviour, surely?

 Petition: Keep it in the Ground

The Guardian newspaper and are collecting signatures on a petition to ask two important charities to divest from fossil fuels. If you agree, why not add your name?

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