The science museum and the exploitation of science – An improbable duo | Science
On May 19, the Science Museum inaugurated the Our future planet exhibition – a showcase of carbon capture technologies, sponsored by oil and gas giant Shell. While some may be pleasantly surprised by Shell’s involvement in the science of climate change, it was nothing more than another greenwashing attempt by another company responsible for the crisis we find ourselves in today. hui.
The 2021 IPCC report made it clear that we are at a point of no return and that this is ‘code red for humanity’. The report says that since 1970, global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period in the past 2,000 years, and changes to many parts of our planetary system are irreversible over time. time scales ranging from centuries to millennia. And yet, despite all the overwhelming evidence, climate science is still used as a propaganda tool to support politicians and improve public perception of big business. As the 2020 US election approaches, Joe Biden has made a broad commitment to ending hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, and yet approvals for oil and gas on US public lands are on track. reach their highest level this year since the Bush administration. Biden’s call to “trust the science” on climate change is another epidemic case of public figures using climate science as a method to create positive public perception without creating significant change. The UK claims to be a world leader in climate policy. Indeed, it has set itself the most ambitious emission reduction target in the world (a reduction of 78% by 2035), but the policies adopted by the Conservative government have shown reluctance to engage properly with it. the science they seem to promote. Massive road construction plans, the HS2 train line and the expansion of Heathrow Airport are just a few of the many large infrastructure projects that will lead to massive increases in emissions. The failure of the UK government to block the first coal mine in three decades is a horrific demonstration of all the talk and lack of action on climate policy.
In the past, scientific development and politics went hand in hand – the space race was a massive propaganda tool for the USSR and the United States, but the scientific achievements of that time cannot be disputed. In today’s world, the space race is led by companies like Amazon and SpaceX in their quest to build commercial rockets. Their scientific achievements help hide a history of abuse and exploitation of workers. Amazon’s addictions are well known – it was widely reported this year that Amazon delivery drivers have to urinate in bottles while driving due to difficult time constraints, and working conditions for those in the warehouses are not much better. The success of SpaceX’s rocket program is offset by the philosophy of its owner Elon Musk, who prefers to focus on colonizing stars rather than securing our climate first. Space exploration is an important area and should not be undermined, but Musk’s ambitions to create worker colonies on Mars – a place not under the control of any country – would essentially create a new form of slavery. under contract. Tesla is another company that uses the image of climate awareness to promote its electric cars, but its investment in bitcoin, a cryptocurrency whose mining has exceeded Argentina’s annual power consumption as a whole, is undermining considerably this picture. The problem has never been the lack of scientific development, but the misallocation of funds to impractical solutions (like carbon capture and hyperboucles) and the reluctance to seriously engage in climate science and use actually its results.
As a partner institution of the Science Museum, the Imperial College Union Council voted not to condemn the greenwashing of the Shell Science Museum. As a university that holds the Grantham Institute for Climate Change in its research arsenal, this is a dreadful betrayal of our duty to science. Sadly, this is yet another example of Imperial’s refusal to divest from fossil fuels and the Union’s apathy about it.
Scientific opinion has become a skeuomorph of what it once was. It is being used under the guise of change to attract more progressive voters, but when the time comes to take responsibility for how capitalist exploitation has left our planet, it takes a back seat. Bastion of scientific achievements, the Science Museum is a place to promote the scientific method and to better understand how the world really works. In a way, the Shell show did just that.