New Documents: Shell Knew, Too

April 5, 2018

What Exxon knew, Shell knew too.
They all knew. They all lied.

I don’t believe in hell, but for these folks, one wishes it were true.

Newly unearthed internal documents from Royal Dutch Shell/Shell Group provide new insights into what they knew about climate change and when they knew it.

Documents unearthed by Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent have also been published on Climate Files, a project of the Climate Investigations Center.  These documents date back to 1988 and show intense interest in climate change internally at Shell.


A “CONFIDENTIAL” 1988 document titled, “The Greenhouse Effect”, details Shell’s extensive knowledge of climate change impacts and implications. It also reveals an internal Shell climate science program dating back to 1981, well before the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded.

In another document from 1998, Shell scenario planners predicted that catastrophic weather events and growing public concern would trigger lawsuits against the government and fossil fuel companies. A section of this scenario titled, “2010- Environment Back on the Front Pages” describes the scene:

“While climate change is not a high priority for most people early in the century, NGOs continue to lobby against inaction on the Kyoto protocol…. In 2010, a series of violent storms causes extensive damage to the eastern coast of the US. Although it is not clear whether the storms are caused by climate change, people are not willing to take further chances. The insurance industry refuses to accept liability, setting off a fierce debate over who is liable: the insurance industry, or the government. After all, two successive IPCC reports since 1995 have reinforced the human connection to climate change.” (Link)

The scenario goes on to predict class action lawsuits will be based on “what they knew when”:

“Following the storms, a coalition of environmental NGOs brings a class-action suit against the US government and fossil-fuel companies on the grounds of neglecting what scientists (including their own) have been saying for years: that something must be done. A social. reaction to the use of fossil fuels grows, and individuals become “vigilante environmentalists” in the same way, a generation earlier, they had become fiercely anti-tobacco. Direct-action campaigns against companies escalate. Young consumers, especially, demand action…The power, auto, and oil industries see billions wiped off their market value overnight.” (Link)

These are just two examples of new revelations unearthed in this trove of information from De Correspondent. We believe these documents will be of significant value to journalists, researchers, lawyers, investors and shareholder activists. Below are some of the most illuminating documents of the trove, revealing new insights into Shell’s perspective on climate science, climate policy, and corporate responsibility over the past three decades.

Links to documents here:

1988 Shell Confidential Report “The Greenhouse Effect”Confidential report, authored by members of Shell’s Greenhouse Effect Working Group and based on a 1986 study. The document reveals Shell was commissioning “greenhouse effect” reports as early as 1981.

1990 Shell Selected Papers “The environmental challenge and the oil industry’s response”:

1992 Shell Speech “Three Cornered Challenge – energy, environment and population” (Sept. 14, 1992): Lecture by Lodewijk van Wachen, Chairman of Shell Supervisory Board.

1994 Shell Report “The Enhanced Greenhouse Effect – A review of scientific aspects” (December 1994): Report by Shell environmental advisor, Peter Langcake. Distribution unclear.

1995 Shell Management Brief “Climate Change” (February 1995): Management briefing titled “Climate Change” detailed “The Shell Position” on climate science and policy. Circulated internally.

1996 Shell Management Brief The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (April 1996)

1995 Shell Internal Report “Is Climate Change Occurring Already?” (October 1995): Internal report authored by Shell’s Peter Langcake. Distribution unclear.

1998 Shell Internal TINA Group Scenarios 1998-2020 ReportInternal report on future scenarios begun in 1995. TINA stands for “There is No Alternative to adapting to and making uses of the forces of Globalization, Liberalization and Technology. Circulated internally.

1998 Report “Climate Change: What does Shell think and do about it?” (February 2, 1998)

1998 Speech “Reflections on Kyoto” presented at Davos World Economic ForumRemarks by Cor Herkströter, Shell Chairman of the Committee of Managing Directors, at World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland.

1999 Report “Listening and Responding- The Profits and Principles Advertising Campaign”Public ad campaign builds on an April 1998 Shell special report, entitled “Profits & Principles – does there have to be a choice?” Copies of print ads are included. Distribution unclear

1997 Shell Presentation “Sustainable Development – the challenge for energy” (April 17, 1997): Presented at the “Business and the Environment Programme” Cambridge, England by John Jennings, a Shell Managing Director and Chairman of Shell Transport and Trading Company.


12 Responses to “New Documents: Shell Knew, Too”

  1. L RACINE Says:

    Thank your the links to the actual reports and the hopefully the documents themselves.

    My evening reading awaits!

  2. Says:

    Once again Peter, you’ve gathered some really great information for us to digest about some questionable people that certainly do make us wish that hell was real. The analogy that you captured in your video of the cigarette companies makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen the same analogy used against eating processed meats — now listed by WHO as a Class 1 carcinogen. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, animal agriculture contributes more GHGs than all of the transportation sector combined.

    Seeing the cut of Carl Sagan at the end reminded me of something else he spoke of on the topic of anthropocentrism, “Humans–who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals–have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and “animals” is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them–without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeeling toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals renders such pretensions specious.They are just too much like us”.

    Considering how well the smoking analogy fits, perhaps we (you — in some more posts) could talk about substantially reducing our footprint by kicking the dark habits of carnism? After all, it would be considered ridiculous to hear a smoker carry on about what the evil tobacco lords have done to him if he just won’t put down the cancer sticks.

    Thanks for all the great work you do. May they burn in hell.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      that’s a great quote – I think more and more people are waking up to the sentience of animals.

      • Says:

        One way or another, people definitely are waking up. For forty years we were brainwashed into believing we needed to eat dead animals to survive. We made the change for health reasons, but it didn’t take long to discover that we were ‘killing three birds with one stone’ — Oops! Wrong analogy! But anyways, it’s great for the environment, great for our bodies, and it’s certainly more ethical than the slaughterhouse. It’s easy to be pissed off at these oil executives all day long, but knowing that changing what’s on my plate has a much bigger effect on our future seems like a more constructive way of bringing about change.

  3. redskylite Says:

    O.K Charles I was wrong & dreaming, they all belong in the pot together. . .

    Shell foresaw climate dangers in 1988 and understood Big Oil’s big role

    A Dutch journalist has uncovered Royal Dutch Shell documents as old as 1988 that showed the oil company understood the gravity of climate change, the company’s large contribution to it and how hard it would be to stop it.

    The 1988 report titled “The Greenhouse Effect” calculated that the Shell group alone was contributing 4 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions through its oil, natural gas and coal products. “By the time global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation,” the report warned.

  4. redskylite Says:

    Shell General Business Principles
    As a global energy company operating in a challenging world, we set high standards of performance and ethical behaviours. We are judged by how we act and how we live up to our core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people. Our Business Principles are based on these. They promote trust, openness, teamwork and professionalism, as well as pride in what we do and how we conduct business.

    We were one of the first global companies to state and share our beliefs when we published our General Business Principles in 1976. As part of these principles, we commit to contribute to sustainable development, balancing short and long-term interests and integrating economic, environmental and social considerations into our decision-making.

  5. Sir Charles Says:

    Royal Dutch Shell has known about the links between fossil fuel use and climate change for decades, according to newly-released internal company documents.

    => #ShellKnew 30 Years Ago: Documents Reveal Predictions of Extreme Weather, Climate Lawsuits

  6. Sir Charles Says:

    A trove of documents shows the oil company’s scientists urged its leaders to heed the warnings. That could now play into lawsuits over global warming.

    => Shell Knew Fossil Fuels Created Climate Change Risks Back in 1980s, Internal Documents Show

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: