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'Big Oil' Spills into Manchester Science Festival

Oil and gas company Shell sponsored an exhibition at the launch of the Manchester Science Festival on 17 October. Attendees were greeted by a ‘coalition of artists, campaigners and Manchester residents’ called Shell Out! who were there to poke fun at the irony of the company sponsoring the six-month long exhibition, Electricity: The Spark of Life, which will showcase the efforts of scientists to harness the power source for the public good.

Dressed as Shell representatives in hazard-red hoodies and caps, the team of protestors handed out satirical literature and answered questions to those unaware of who the sponsor of the event was.

Oskar, one of the protestors connected to community group Carbon Co-op, said of the event: “We were chatting about what we were doing to the staff and security, who were friendly and sympathetic. Even though we were all there to get Shell out of the exhibition, we were also there to engage in conversation, have fun and get people talking inside the launch. We certainly think we achieved that!”

The group’s chief argument concerns news that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their 2018 report highlighting that humanity has limited time to prevent a catastrophic 1.5c global temperature rise. Despite the fossil fuel industry being one of the biggest contributors to global warming, the Science and Industry Museum (SIM) justified their decision to allow Shell sponsorship due to funding ‘declining in real terms’ as a result of Government cuts.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham defended the decision and showed his support for Shell sponsoring the event by proposing that energy companies be part of the solution: “It is only by engaging in constructive dialogue that awareness of environmental issues can be raised, and differences of opinion can be better understood.”

However, such dialogue seems to have failed repeatedly, with Shell only committing to 5% renewable energy production in the future. According to their website, they are seeking to cut their carbon footprint in half ‘by 2050’ – long after it could matter.

Furthermore, Shell Chief Executive Ben Van Beurden responded to suggestions that they could be “going green” by saying that they’ve “not gone soft on the future of oil and gas”. This illustrates that they have targets, projections and ideas for future markets, and that a productive discussion on global warming has yet to be had.

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