Science museum

Science Museum board member resigns over oil sponsorship


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Senior climatologist Professor Chris Rapley has resigned from the Science Museum’s advisory board on fossil fuel sponsorship.

The resignation of Professor Rapley, who was director of the Science Museum from 2007 to 2010, comes ahead of climate talks at next month’s COP26 and after activists and activists protested the museum’s decision to work with companies such as energy giant Shell.

Professor Rapley says it is “a pity” that he has to resign, but does not agree with the “current willingness to accept sponsorship from oil and gas companies”.

The Science Museum reopened to the public in May with a new exhibit – titled Our Future Planet – of which Shell is a major sponsor.

Protesters at an Extinction Rebellion protest near the Science Museum (James Manning / PA) / PA wire

The Science Museum Group (SMG) has been a leader in climate awareness through its public programs. The exhibition is a key part of his current work.

In a letter explaining his resignation, he says there are powerful arguments for influential bodies such as the SMG to work with oil and gas companies towards a transition to a carbon-free global energy system.

Professor Rapley says demonizing them can be ‘simplistic and counterproductive’, but adds: ‘It is a matter of judgment whether uncompromising public protest or’ soft diplomacy and persuasion ‘offers the best way to influence. their actions.

“The Science Museum Group has taken the latter approach and I respect the Group’s right to come to this decision.

“Given the reality of the climate crisis, the need to abolish fossil fuels as quickly as possible, and analyzes such as the recent Carbon Tracker Report which call into question the commitment of oil and gas companies to do so, I do not agree with the Group’s constant desire to accept sponsorship from oil and gas companies.

“With this in mind, I have decided to resign from the Science Museum Advisory Board.

A demonstration inside the Science Museum in London (Isobel Frodsham / PA) / PA wire

Professor Rapley hopes that the SMG will “reconsider its position” in the future.

He added, “The museum has much to be proud of in terms of its emissions reduction program and sustainability actions, as well as its continued path to engage the public on the subject and how science and technology light the way. cheeky.”

A Shell spokesperson said: “Shell and the Science Museum have a long-standing relationship, based on a common interest in promoting engagement in science, which will be a key element in meeting the challenge of providing solutions. more and cleaner energy sources.

“Thousands of visitors have spent time at the museum this summer, learning and discussing carbon capture and storage. We are delighted to have supported such an important and successful event.

Professor Rapley is Professor of Climate Science at University College London (UCL). He was awarded the Edinburgh Science Medal in 2008 for his significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of mankind – and was chairman of the European Space Science Committee.

Jess Worth, co-director of Culture Unstained – a group that advocates for arts and culture organizations to sever their ties to fossil fuels, described Professor Rapley’s actions as “a courageous, principled move.”

The museum has been contacted for comment.


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