We all know Shell, right? The common logo and company we see every day when traveling around the world, the company pumping out billions of gallons of gas a year to millions of drivers each day? Yea, that one. As an environmental science student, I have been educated on the negative effects that companies like Shell have on the ecosystems, environment, pollution and climate change. However, recently, Shell has announced some interesting news which combats these negative implications. This sounds great, but one can not help but remain skeptical. A brief summary of a the negative implications that Shell has involved in, in the past, are summarized below, followed by Shell’s recent and surprising climate change statement.
Over the years, Shell has been accused of a multitude of environmental injustices. This includes lobbying against the climate by paying around $22 million to anti-climate policy advocates. While doing this, Shell outwardly projected that they were in agreement with climate policies like the Paris accord, and eased the minds of the unsuspecting public. Shell is also accused of over extracting oil from the Niger Delta for almost half a century, disrupting the environment, driving away the inhabitants and creating high volumes of pollution. To make matters worse, an accidental but very large oil spill occurred which caused the surrounding villages to have a decreased quality of water and wildlife. This made it extremely difficult to live in an already minimalized society. When the Friends of the Earth, an anti-Shell activist group in the Netherlands, gathered enough information on this, they took Shell to court, looking for some justice. They were then wrapped up in years of court cases, resulting in justice for one Nigerian farmer. Shell continued to deny responsibility to the environmental damage caused. Lastly, it was discovered that Shell has actually known the truth about the environmental implications their company would cause.
To make matter worse, journalist Jelmer Mommers discovered a 1988 report titled ‘The Greenhouse Effect” which highlighted the damage Shell would cause on the climate. Shell realized they were harming the climate as much as 20 years ago, but decided not to act on it right away.
In addition to this, the report calculated that the Shell CO2 emissions alone were contributing to 4 percent of the global amount. This number was created taking into account the plethora of production Shell has on oil, natural gas, and coal products. Climate scientists worried that if Shell didn’t start to act fast that by time they do decide to act, it will be too late.
With all of this negative evidence against Shell, it is hard to see why anyone could support them, right? Wrong.
This is where the importance of power, money and influence intersects with gullibility. While there are plenty of activists, protests and law cases against Shell, Shell itself, as a superpower, has managed the art of manipulating the public to seeing, hearing, and knowing exactly what they want them to know.
When going online to find more information about Shell, it is extremely easy to get swept up in a maze of articles seemingly about what you want to know. Shell understands that people question their environmentally conscious intentions and so they make it very easy, and apparent to see their views on the topics on their webpage. Shell does this by sharing articles with the titles like “Leading investors back Shell’s climate targets” and “Shell invests in nature as part of broad drive to tackle CO2 emissions.” When reading these articles, a clear, positive and hopeful outlook on the future of Shell is interpreted. With the initial ease of mind for curious individuals, this can quickly deter someone from looking further into the viability of Shell’s statements. And yet another seemingly educated person will leave with a false tranquility.
The most recent news? On Monday April 8th, Shell announced that they will be investing in a $300 million nature program with the goal of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 2 – 3%. To do so, over the next 3 years the company claims to focus on projects to store carbon, by increasing reforestation and supporting electric vehicle charge points.
CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, Ben van Burden, stated that:
“Shell will play its part. Our focus on natural ecosystems is one step we are taking today to support the transition towards a low-carbon future. This comes in addition to our existing efforts, from reducing the carbon intensity of oil and gas operations to investments in renewable sources of energy”Ben van Burden, April 2019
And Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy, called last year’s IPCC report a “wake-up call on climate” for the company.
All sounds pretty good, right?
One can only hope that Shell will now keep their word, keep their promise to do better by the environment and to seriously keep the climate in consideration in the future. Unfortunately, based on Shell’s history, the truth to these statements and potential reality behind them, is still uncertain.