How reader engagement helped unearth the Shell tape
Ernst-Jan Pfauth

I honestly don’t understand the fuss about the story. At the time I was a graduate student in the climate modeling and prediction group of Prof. Bach at the University of Münster, Germany. Bach was a Member of the Enquete Commission on Climate Change of the German Federal Parliament. The Commission was one of the pre-cursors of the IPCC and published comprehensive, detailed reports (e.g. “Vorsorge zum Schutz der Erdatmosphäre” → Preventive Measures to Protect the Earth’s Atmosphere) that were publicly available. Scientific uncertainties notwithstanding the Risks involved with human contributions to climate change were general scientific knowledge at the time, the science was taught even in undergraduate seminars in Earth Systems Science. We are talking late 80s, early 90s. To even assume the top Management of Shell or any other big industry player might not have known is terribly naive. They knew — they just did not care. The job of a company CEO is to follow the so-called “economic” incentives, which in fact are autistic business incentives forcing every company to focus on its own growth and survival. Once more Clinton’s dictum of “It’s the economy, stupid” holds true. There was and is and will remain the culprit. Shell management simply did their job of optimizing revenues of the company. For that they had to help spreading disinformation or at least deny the validity of information they knew was true. The lie is one of the pillars upon which our glorious economy rests. Lies also are the strings on which political puppets and much of the electorate hang — lies and the “economic” incentive of evermore. By 1990 all relevant facts for decision making were on the table. The Earth summit followed in 1992. But in the name of raw profit, in the name of the invented artificial and purely psychological concept of money, industry leaders decided to gamble with the future of mankind and the entire Geo-Biosphere and many still play poker with the future. With industry managers of exactly this type running the new US government, the game of bluffs and lies is now in full swing.


Protecting the earth’s atmosphere : an international challenge : interim report of the Study Commission of the 11th German Bundestag “Preventive Measures to Protect the Earth’s Atmosphere.”, Bonn, 1989