A Crack in the Shell

New Documents Expose a Hidden
Climate History

Key Findings
•	 A major new trove of Shell documents unearthed by
Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent and released
by Climate Files sheds new light on the contrast between Shell’s internal discussions and its public actions during a critical window for cllimate action.

•	 In a 1991 film, Shell acknowledged both the scale
and scope of potential climate harms to human society, ecosystems, and the environment, and warned
of potential impacts to food security and the rise of
“global warming refugees.”

•	 As Shell faces climate litigation and investigation in
a growing number of countries, including the Netherlands, these documents, paired with new historical
materials, prove Shell had early, repeated, and often
urgent notice of climate risks linked to its products.

•	 Despite these warnings, and contrary to its public
image, Shell maintained active membership in an
array of industry trade groups and front groups that
carried out a decades-long campaign of climate denial and climate obstruction.

•	 A Shell executive authored a 1958 report noting industry research into fossil carbon in the atmosphere.

•	 More than six decades after it was put on notice
of climate risks from its products, Shell continues
aggressively pushing to open new oil and gas horizons—including the rapidly melting Arctic.

•	 In 1962, Shell’s Chief Geologist acknowledged
possible human and environmental risks of global
warming and highlighted calls by other scientists to
increase reliance on solar energy.
•	 A confidential report from 1988 stated that Shell accounted for 4% of global carbon emissions in 1984.
Shell now faces mounting litigation based on market
share theories of liability.
•	 In 1989, Shell took the first steps to protect its own
offshore oil platforms from the risks of rising seas,
even as it joined oil industry efforts to sow public
doubt about climate change.

•	 Shell’s new Sky Scenario is the epitome of this dichotomy: Shell’s model sets out a vision to meet Paris goals, even as the company acknowledges that it
has no intent to pursue that vision.
•	 The new revelations pose risks not only for Shell itself, but for other oil majors whose role in the climate crisis have received relatively less attention.
•	 These findings demonstrate that while these investigations may have begun with ExxonMobil, they are
unlikely to end there.

Select target paragraph3