Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

"Our energy consuming way of life may be causing climatic changes with adverse consequences for us all," the video states. (Photo: FraserElliot/flickr/cc)

Shell Knew, Too: Investigation Reveals Big Oil Co.'s Decades-Long Climate Lies

Much like ExxonMobil, Shell lobbied against climate legislation and invested billions in fossil fuels despite knowing dangers of global warming

Nadia Prupis

Oil giant Shell also knew of the dangers of climate change decades ago, while it continued to lobby against climate legislation and push for fossil fuel development, a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Dutch newspaper The Correspondent revealed Tuesday.

Shell created a confidential report in 1986 which found that the changes brought about by global warming could be "the greatest in recorded history," and warned of an impact "on the human environment, future living standards, and food supplies, [that] could have major social, economic, and political consequences."

The company also made a 28-minute educational film in 1991 titled Climate of Concern that warned oil extraction and use could lead to extreme weather, famines, and mass displacement, and noted that the dangers of climate change were "endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists." The film was developed for public viewing, particularly for schools.

"Our energy consuming way of life may be causing climatic changes with adverse consequences for us all," the video states.

"If the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected," it continues. "Global warming is not yet certain, but many think that to wait for final proof would be irresponsible. Action now is seen as the only safe insurance."

Despite its own warnings, Shell invested billions of dollars into tar sands operations and exploration in the Arctic. It has also devoted millions to lobbying against climate legislation.

The revelations about Shell come after a separate investigation into ExxonMobil revealed that company had also been waging a climate science suppression campaign and burying its own reports on the global warming impacts of fossil fuel use for decades. Exxon, whose former CEO is now U.S. secretary of state, is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and state attorneys general for allegedly lying to investors about the risks of climate change.

In 2016, a group of lawmakers asked the Department of Justice to look into Shell's knowledge of global warming as well.

"They knew. Shell told the public the truth about climate change in 1991 and they clearly never got round to telling their own board of directors," Tom Burke of the green think-tank E3G, told the Guardian on Tuesday. "Shell's behavior now is risky for the climate but it is also risky for their shareholders. It is very difficult to explain why they are continuing to explore and develop high-cost reserves."

Added Bill McKibben, co-founder of the environmental advocacy group 350.org, "The fact that Shell understood all this in 1991, and that a quarter-century later it was trying to open up the Arctic to oil-drilling, tells you all you'll ever need to know about the corporate ethic of the fossil fuel industry. Shell made a big difference in the world—a difference for the worse."

Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations' climate change chief, said action by fossil fuel companies is critical to combating climate change.

"They are a big part of the global economy, so if we do not get them on board, we will not be able to achieve this transformation of the economy we need," she said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Witness Intimidation. Clear as Day': Jan. 6 Panel Teases Evidence of Cover-Up Effort

"Add witness tampering to the laundry list of crimes Trump and his allies must be charged with," said professor Robert Reich.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Bombshell After Bombshell' Dropped as Jan. 6 Testimony Homes In On Trump Guilt

"Hutchinson's testimony of the deeply detailed plans of January 6 and the inaction of those in the White House in response to the violence show just how close we came to a coup," said one pro-democracy organizer.

Brett Wilkins ·


Mark Meadows 'Did Seek That Pardon, Yes Ma'am,' Hutchinson Testifies

The former aide confirmed that attorney Rudy Giuliani also sought a presidential pardon related to the January 6 attack.

Jessica Corbett ·


UN Chief Warns of 'Ocean Emergency' as Leaders Confront Biodiversity Loss, Pollution

"We must turn the tide," said Secretary-General António Guterres. "A healthy and productive ocean is vital to our shared future."

Julia Conley ·


'I Don't F—ing Care That They Have Weapons': Trump Wanted Security to Let Armed Supporters March on Capitol

"They're not here to hurt me," Trump said on the day of the January 6 insurrection, testified a former aide to ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo