Ford, GM scientists knew in 1960s that emissions caused climate change: report

Getty Images

Ford and General Motors have known about the effects of vehicular emissions on climate change since as early as the 1960s, E&E News reported Monday.

Scientists at the companies made findings on the human and fossil fuel impacts of climate change in the 1960s and 1970s. At GM, the evidence was presented to at least three top executives, including a former chairman and CEO, according to an investigation by the news outlet.

Still, the companies lobbied for decades against attempts to reduce emissions and did not move their businesses away from vehicles that were fossil fuel intensive during that period.

Asked about the E&E News article, GM spokesman James Cain detailed actions the company is taking to address climate change, from supporting “modernizing” vehicle standards and working to power its manufacturing by 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. 

“General Motors takes the challenge of climate change seriously and recognizes the role of the transportation sector in contributing to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” Cain said in an email to The Hill.

“Our global commitment to improving fuel economy, reducing emissions and an all-electric, zero-emissions future is unwavering, regardless of the prevailing emissions standards in any region in which we operate,” he added. 

Ford spokesman John Cangany said in a statement that the company knows “that climate change is real and we are addressing it right now through meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions, investment in electric vehicles and sustainable manufacturing.”

InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times in 2015 similarly reported that Exxon Mobil Corp. had long known the effect of fossil fuel emissions. That reporting has been followed by a series of lawsuits against the company. Exxon Mobil has called the lawsuits “baseless and without merit.”

In the 1960s, both Ford and GM employed scientists who had researched climate change, E&E reported.

One researcher at GM was Ruth Annette Gabriel Reck, who told the news outlet that she presented her findings to Roger Bonham Smith, who became chairman and CEO of GM in 1981, and his successor Robert “Bob” Stempel. 

“We would sit down and they would look at the papers, and I would explain to them what they were looking at,” she said. “They were aware of things that were going on.”

Meanwhile, both companies fought against policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

They were part of the Global Climate Coalition, which opposed emissions reductions attempts during the  George H.W. Bush administration, according to a list of members published by the Climate Investigations Center.

They also reportedly donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to think tanks that cast doubt on the global warming consensus.

The transportation sector remains a major emitter of planet-warming gases, making up 28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.

–Updated at 12:39 p.m.

Tags Climate change Ford General Motors GM

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video