On the day the London Science Museum opened its latest climate change exhibition in May, a group of scientists from Extinction Rebellion, an organization of climate activists Lock yourself in In protest. Their complaint? The exhibition titled “Our Future Planet” highlights the prospects of technologies that absorb carbon dioxide from the air or industrial chimneys and is sponsored by the oil and gas giant Shell.

The sponsorship first sparked outcry when it was announced in April. “We condemn the Science Museum’s decision to accept this sponsorship and provide Shell with a shameless green cleaning opportunity,” the British Student Climate Network Wrote in an open letter then.Director of Science Museum Group Defend the exhibition And sponsor, say “We reserve editorial control.”

But on Thursday, new evidence emerged that Shell’s funding for the exhibition was not unconditional. Unstained culture, A radical organization whose goal is to “end the fossil fuel sponsorship of culture”, Obtained Shell Sponsorship Contract With the Science Museum under the Freedom of Information Act. The contract stipulates that the museum shall not take any action that would be deemed to “defame or damage the goodwill or reputation of the sponsor.”

Fossil fuel companies are regular sponsors of museum exhibitions and general cultural institutions, but in recent years, their donations have been subject to increasingly strict scrutiny.British activists have been staged Protest regularly In the past few years at the British Museum, it was asked to end its long-term relationship with BP. Critics believe that allowing companies like BP to put their logo on the walls of museums will enhance their status in society, perpetuate their social operating permits, and may influence curatorial decisions.

It is obvious what Shell has gained in the “Our Future Planet” exhibition. At the center of the exhibition are the technologies described by oil and gas companies like Shell that will enable them to continue to sell fossil fuels while reducing emissions. The exhibition will last until autumn, when thousands of political leaders from all over the world will pass through the UK to participate in the United Nations annual climate conference.As Grist’s Kate Yoder observed in 2019 Stories about the relationship between the petroleum industry and museums, “Charity is not just a way to make wealth dignified-it can also be an attempt to influence the direction of society.”

Visitors started the exhibition “Our Future Planet” through “The oldest form of carbon capture technology: trees and plants”, according to a report Promotional posts On the website of the Science Museum. Next, they encountered a mechanical tree developed by Claus Lackner, a professor at Arizona State University and a pioneer in technology that captures carbon directly from the air. Later, they learned about attempts to capture carbon dioxide in rock dust, a method called enhanced weathering. Finally, visitors to the museum were introduced to the methods of capturing carbon from the flue gas of fossil fuel-burning power plants and industrial plants, as well as products that can be produced from the captured carbon dioxide, such as concrete, yoga mats and vodka.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion are linked to Klaus Lackner’s mechanical tree exhibition in the “Our Future Planet” exhibition
Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

International research institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have stated that these solutions are needed to stabilize the climate. But these technologies are still in their infancy, and it is not yet clear whether they will be commercially viable or on what scale. Scientists who support carbon capture and carbon removal warn that they should not be seen as substitutes for the rapid emission reductions of the technologies we have today.

Shell has pledged to reduce its emissions to zero by 2050, but its plan is to continue to sell oil and gas, while relying heavily on carbon capture and storage, and so-called nature-based solutions, such as tree planting, to offset its emissions. In May, the Dutch court Ruling that Shell’s plan does not comply with the Paris Agreement And ordered the company to reduce emissions more quickly. Shell is appealing the verdict.

Museum exhibitions that teach people about carbon capture and carbon removal can be considered a good thing because research shows that the public still most Confuse About the meaning of these terms. But I hope it can also invite visitors to think about the risks and challenges of these solutions beyond their promise.I have never been to an exhibition myself, but I am a critic Written in “New Scientist” magazine In summary: “The exhibition is mainly a balance between pessimism and optimism, although it could have further demonstrated how expensive and small these things are.”

Shell spokesperson Tell Channel 4 News, “We fully respect the independence of the museum. This is why its carbon capture exhibition is important and why we support it. Debate and discussion-among anyone who sees it-is essential.”

For its value, in Blog post On the museum’s website, exhibition consultant Bob Ward stated that the world is facing an “urgent task” to reduce emissions. “This will mean a fundamental shift to fossil fuels as our main source of energy.” Ward acknowledged that the exhibition is in progress. There are great uncertainties in the proposed solutions, and there is concern that relying on these solutions may reduce the ambition to reduce emissions faster. But he added, “If oil companies play a real commitment and active role, we are more likely to transition to a zero-carbon economy quickly and orderly.”

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