Royal Dutch Shell board paid Dutch climate skeptic to set up a campaign against climate science.
In a groundbreaking piece of research journalism the Dutch journalist collective PAJ (@paj ) found the archive of late climate skeptic and professor in Chemical Physics Frits Böttcher.
The archive included boxes full of notes of conversations and letters of Shell board members and other Dutch industrials on what Böttcher called ‘the CO2 project’. The archive also contained written agreements on money transfers to Böttcher to support his work between 1979 and 1998: more than a million Euro’s in total.
Yes, this is the same Shell that produced a movie warning about the risks of climate change in 1991. There is now even more and overwhelming evidence that – at the same time – the company supported a campaign to sabotage climate policy. And the orders came from the very top of the company.
Böttcher was a high ranking Dutch scientist, co-founder of the Club of Rome and member of the Scientific Council for Government Policy. He was in close contact with several powerfull politicians, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, captains of industry, the Dutch Royal House, and the Elsevier publishing company.
According to his own notes he was approached by Shell board members to set up a project to sow doubt on the effects of CO2 on global warming and attack climate science.
Böttcher started publishing articles, feeding journalist with false information, and founded several organizations to spread his message. Internationally he was connected to Fred Singer, Roger Bate and other climate skeptics. He co-founded the ESEF that was connected to the International Policy Network and other denier thinktanks. Currently active Dutch climate skeptics see him as the founding father of the Dutch climate skeptics movement and their inspiration.
Both his Shell supporters and Böttcher where fully aware that his work was meant to derail serious climate policy in the Netherlands and abroad. They discussed strategies on how to do this most effectively, and Böttcher’s influence and credibility as a scientist in doing so. In 1998 the sponsorship was cancelled, not because Shell didn’t want to sabotage climate policy anymore but because in Böttchers words ‘Shell got into troubles with the Brent Spar and Nigeria’. More importantly though, the strategy wasn’t working anymore. So Shell switched to a ‘second defense line’: the company focussed its messaging on the ‘unrealistic’ costs of climate policy and to discredit sustainable alternatives.
Such strategy is nothing new for Shell. In the ‘70s and ‘80s it tried to undermine the anti-apartheid movement and African resistance against its neo-colonial policy in Southern Africa in what was dubbed as ‘The Neptune strategy’: A calculated plan to protect profits and obscure the way in which Shell concretely supports white minority rule. (http://africanactivist.msu.edu/document_metadata.php?objectid=32-130-1361)
It is these kind of practices that make the Shell Board and its shareholders an obstacle for change. This will only stop if we dismantle Shell by breaking up and democratizing the company. And that’s why Shell Must Fall will block and disrupt the next Shell AGM on the 19th of May in the Hague.
*This English summary is based on a longer article published in Dutch by Follow The Money