E&E News Reporter Maxine Joselow has broken new ground with an investigative story on what scientists at General Motors and Ford knew about climate change back to the 1960s. There were scientists employed by these companies not only studying the issue, but publishing their work in scientific journals, pushing the issue in the scientific community and briefing company management along the way. Game changing new information here.
The Center for International Environmental Law helped with archival research on industry scientists for this E&E reporting, building on their blockbuster “Smoke and Fumes” American Petroleum Institute research a few years back.
The picture E&E draws of ‘what happened next’ is what makes the story most intriguing. After establishing this base of clear internal knowledge of the threat of climate change and how the use of fossil fuels was driving the crisis, the auto companies then join rank with the fossil fuel industry and others to push back on science and block policy solutions starting in the late 1980s and extending well into the 2000s. Over this time period, GM and Ford were involved in multiple efforts to undermine policies that would have begun to reduce global warming pollution. Having missed this chance, society/humanity now will have a harder time “flattening the curve” and bringing global emissions down to a level that won’t further disrupt the planet’s balance.
Many of the lawsuits you have read about in recent years hover on this exact question: how much did the companies know, did they know their product, used as directed, would cause harm and contribute to global warming, and how did they react in the public policy arena.
Materials from our archives on GM, Ford and the automakers trade associations:
1989 Global Climate Coalition membership list
The GCC was formed as a front group within the National Association of Manufacturers in 1989. The earliest membership list we have includes Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Chrysler and the Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Association (now known as The Alliance).
1996-97 GCC Subcommittee Documents with auto company representatives listed
Auto industry people listed on GCC STAC list:
- Greg Dana (Association of International Automobile Manufacturers);
- Jon Heuss (GM Research Scientist);
- Terry Pritchett (General Motors);
- John Shiller (Ford Motor Company),
- Marle Takemoto (Chrysler).
At other meetings, Chuck Sharp represented GM
1999 Ford and GM withdraw from the Global Climate Coalition
GCC response to Ford leaving the coalition
1998 CEI TV Ad “Let there be light”
1998 CEI TV Ad “Gas Lines”
2003 CEI IRS Form 990 with funders listed
2006 Ford Statement on CEI “They call it pollution, we call it life” TV ads
2006 leaked internal memo from head of Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA)
The memo takes about Koch funding a coalition run through the National Association of Manufacturers and notes that about Ford and GM funding Competitive Enterprise Institute TV ads in ten states.