GM Knew About Global Warming in the ‘60s

A report E&E News states that GM executives were warned by their own scientists that human activity caused global warming as early as the ’60s and still lobbied government not to take action against it.

The evidence was presented to at least three high-level executives by Ruth Reck, one of the first women to join GM’s research lab in the 1960s. 

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

The report claims that Ford also knew of the damaging effects of global warming at the time. History shows that both manufacturers failed to act and indeed impeded government efforts to prevent much of the damage of global warming that we are seeing today.

“Instead of shifting their business models away from fossil fuels, the companies invested heavily in gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs,” writes E&E News. “At the same time, the two carmakers privately donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that cast doubt on the scientific consensus on global warming.”

Although this is undoubtedly an enraging revelation, it’s hardly a surprising one. Research on global warming goes back well into the early part of the last century and by the ‘60s much research on global warming was widely available. 

In 1965, President Lyndon B Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee was warning about the harmful effects of fossil fuel emissions and by 1968 Stanford researchers were predicting the melting of the ice caps.

It is by no means a surprise that the automotive industry, like the tobacco industry, paid to have doubt cast on this research so that it could save a little bit of money. Among the more galling things to come out of this story, though, is GM’s response. 

“There is nothing we can say about events that happened one or two generations ago since they are irrelevant to the company’s positions and strategy today,” a spokesperson told E&E News. 

Indeed, the company’s position two decades ago is directly responsible for GM’s Vision Zero. The warming of the earth has led GM to spend billions of dollars on battery research and millions of dollars on repairing its rightfully-earned image as a driver of climate change.

GM’s current negotiations with the EPA, its pact to join other automakers in following CARB standards, the unveiling of the Hummer are all directly linked to climate change and the decisions that GM made then to ignore, conceal, and actively cast doubt on climate change research that was coming from within its own labs. 

To say that it’s irrelevant to GM’s positions and strategy today is to ignore, conceal, and actively cast doubt on the realities presented to it. 

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