Professor of Climate Science Chris Rapley CBE resigned this weekend from the Science Museum’s Advisory Board over the issue of fossil fuel sponsorship and the museum’s willingness to accept money from major oil and gas companies, including Shell.
Rapley, who is currently Professor of Climate Science at UCL, has long-standing ties with the Science Museum, serving as its Director from 2007 to 2010. In a letter explaining his resignation he wrote on Saturday:
“Given the reality of the climate crisis, the need to abolish fossil fuels as quickly as possible, and analyses such as the recent Carbon Tracker Report which bring into question the commitment of the oil and gas companies to do so, I disagree with the Group’s ongoing willingness to accept oil and gas company sponsorship.”
The move follows internal discussions between Rapley and the museum after it controversially announced Shell as sponsor of its current flagship climate exhibition, ‘Our Future Planet’.
Rapley’s resignation, however, is a significant shift in position, who has in the past had defended oil sponsorship, and worked closely with Shell while at the helm of the Science Museum to set up its sponsorship of another major climate exhibition, ‘Atmosphere’, in 2011.
Since the April announcement, a major backlash has unfolded with scientists, exhibition contributors and Greta Thunberg speaking out through protests, petitions and a youth-led boycott of the exhibition.
In August it was revealed by Channel 4 News, based on an investigation by Culture Unstained, that the museum had signed a ‘gagging clause’ with Shell committing not to “damage the goodwill or reputation” of Shell, despite major controversy surrounding the sponsor’s climate impacts.
The museum also has ongoing partnerships with fossil fuel giants BP and Equinor.