Researchers at Ford and General Motors knew in the 1960s that combustion of fossil fuels was causing global warming and then actively worked to obfuscate that scientific reality to further their bottom lines, an investigation by E&E News found.
As early as the mid-1950s, Ford physicist Gilbert Plass was publishing articles on the climatic impacts of carbon dioxide, and in 1961 he authored an article that specifically called out fossil fuels like coal and oil as leading causes of rising global temperatures.
In 1975, GM researcher Ruth Heck, now 88, published a paper in Science, in which she found aerosols caused “heating of the atmosphere near the poles,” and in 1981 published researchexploring “increases in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide.”
By 1988 the science was solid and went public with James Hansen’s congressional testimony, but the next year both GM and Ford joined the Global Climate Coalition to oppose efforts to cut greenhouse gas pollution and went on to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to climate denial groups and fought efforts to improve fuel efficiency standards, worried such standards would cut into their profits from SUVs and pickup trucks. In 1989 GM’s public relations department published a report casting doubt on carbon pollution and warming.
“There was never any doubt for a minute,” Reck told E&E, “that [the GM report] really misrepresents the truth. The PR people use those kinds of weasel words to misrepresent things.”