The film opens with an airplane cruising over the Atlantic. In a low croon, the narrator discusses scientists monitoring ocean life and sampling "the mix of gasses in the atmosphere, at different times and seasons."
“The need to understand the interplay of atmosphere and oceans has been given a new sense of urgency,” he intones, “by the realization that our energy-consuming way of life may be causing climatic changes — with adverse consequences for us all."
Plot twist: the film is from 1991, and it was made by oil behemoth Royal Dutch Shell. And thanks to reporting from Dutch online journalism platform The Correspondent and The Guardian newspaper, this 28-minute Shell educational video, Climate of Concern, has been unearthed from the archives and is available for online viewing.
Behold the Shell film, 'Climate of Concern'
Made by the Shell Film and Video Unit, Climate of Concern warns of “extreme weather, floods, famines and climate refugees as fossil fuel-burning warmed the world,” the Guardian report states.
The warning to the world was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990,” said the film, according to the newspaper's account.
Critics now say Shell hasn’t paid enough attention to its own warning. Greenpeace, for example, recently accused the company of trying to manipulate public opinion and distracting from fossil fuel impacts, National Observer reported.
The existence of the film and its predictions of temperature and sea level rises, says the Guardian report, means that Shell accepted the dangers of climate change early on. But despite this “clear-eyed view,” the report continues, “Shell invested many billions of dollars in highly polluting tar sand operations and on exploration in the Arctic.”
Shell invested an estimated US$22 million in 2015 lobbying against climate policies, according to an April 2016 London-based InfluenceMap report cited in the article. The Shell website now states that, “Shell has long recognised the climate challenge and the role of energy in enabling a decent quality of life,” and that the company “supports the establishment of government-led carbon ‘pricing’ mechanisms that deliver a meaningful cost on CO2 emissions.”
Representatives from Shell did not respond to questions about the video and the reports in time for publication of this story.