‘Staggeringly out of step’: Science Museum launches climate exhibition sponsored by Shell

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Shell is a major sponsor of the Science Museum’s Our Future Planet exhibition (PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Shell is a major sponsor of the Science Museum’s Our Future Planet exhibition (PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Science Museum has been accused of being “staggeringly out-of-step” after it revealed Shell is a “major sponsor” of its climate exhibition.

The Our Future Planet exhibition is due to open on 19 May, and will focus on carbon capture and storage.

“Carbon dioxide is essential to life on Earth but over the last century industrialisation has increased levels of it in the atmosphere with devastating impacts,” the description for the exhibit reads.

“Alongside efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scientists and researchers are exploring ways to actively remove and store carbon dioxide, a key area of innovation in the fight against climate change.”

The exhibit will showcase “some of the incredible technologies being developed which, in combination with large reductions in emissions, have the potential to reduce the environmental impact of the industries we rely on every day”.

Visitors will also be shown apparatus from the UK’s BIFoR FACE experiment, one of only two facilities in the world that can model the impact of climate change on forest ecosystems.

They will aso see an early prototype of Klaus Lackner’s Mechanical Tree, one of a few working mechanical trees in the world.

The final section of the exhibition will show systems being developed to remove carbon dioxide at the point of emission, including the “Carbon Capture Machine” team at the University of Aberdeen, who have developed a chemical process to trap and store carbon dioxide produced by the largest power station in the UK.

However, the museum has been criticised after it revealed that the Shell is a major sponsor, with Scientists for Global Responsibility calling the move “staggeringly out-of-step and irresponsible”, while campaigners have accused the museum of “helping to boost Shell’s cynical greenwash”.

“It beggars belief that this iconic British institution has freely chosen to link up with Shell to sponsor their flagship climate exhibition at such a crucial time,” professor emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London, Bill McGuire, said in a statement.

“I can only conclude that they simply don’t care and have no interest whatsoever in playing a responsible role in tackling the climate emergency.”

Jess Worth, co-director of campaign and research organisation Culture Unstained, said: “By allowing Shell to sponsor this exhibition, the Science Museum is helping to boost the company’s cynical greenwash, giving dangerous legitimacy to Shell’s overstated carbon capture fantasies and claims to be going ‘net zero’.

“In reality, no oil and gas company is aligned with the targets in the Paris Agreement or is coming close to reducing fossil fuel production as fast as the climate science demands.

“When most cultural organisations have now cut their ties to oil companies, is the Science Museum really going to choose its backing for Big Oil over its own reputation in the run-up to COP26?”

In a statement, Sir Ian Blatchford, director and chief executive of the Science Museum Group, said: “Science Museum Group is transparent about its long-standing relationship with a limited number of energy companies and how, in all such partnerships, we retain editorial control.

“As visitors will be able to see for themselves when we reopen, new exhibition Our Future Planet looks at both the cutting-edge technologies and nature-based solutions being developed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and makes clear that, alongside reducing carbon emissions, carbon capture and storage can be one contribution in the fight against climate change.”

The Science Museum has recently come under pressure for its existing partnership with oil companies BP and Equinor.

George Monbiot, a journalist at The Guardian, the environmentalist Mark Lynas, and Robin Ince, a comedian, have all pulled out of the museum’s series of climate talks in protest.

Carbon capture technologies are considered a key component in the battle against global warming, with the Climate Chnage Committee describing their development as a “necessity” for the UK to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Independent has attempted to contact Shell for comment.

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