Automakers knew about climate change even in 1960s: E&E Report

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Vehicle Pollution
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While every other automaker in the world now has a considerable stake in the ever-growing electric vehicle (EV) market, a month-long investigation by E&E News has revealed that scientists at two major automakers knew that pollution from their vehicles would cause climate change.  

E&E News, an online publication with interests in the environment and energy sector revealed that researchers at American automakers General Motors GM) and Ford submitted data to the internal business heads as early as the 1960s which has subsequently stifled as the automobile giants had already made significant investments in combustible engines and technology.

The report from E&E News states that a GM scientist in the 1960s presented her findings to at least three high-level executives at the company, including a former chairman and CEO.

Carroll Muffett, President and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law remarked in the report, “We also know that certainly by the 1980s and 1990s, the auto industry was involved in efforts to undermine climate science and stop progress to address climate change. But a different path was available.”

It was only in 1996 when GM made its first commercial electric vehicle, called the EV1 while Ford followed up with the launch of a compact electric pickup truck in 1998.

The online publication obtained hundreds of pages of documents on GM’s corporate history from the General Motors Heritage Center and Wayne State University in Detroit. Documents on Ford’s climate research were unearthed by the Center for International Environmental Law. The Climate Investigations Center provided additional material on both manufacturers.

Earlier this year, GM CEO Mary Barra committed to using 100% renewable energy at all of its U.S. facilities by 2030 and at all of its global facilities by 2040.

In June, Ford revealed its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050 while stating that it will cut global facility carbon dioxide levels 18% from 2019 to 2023. The automaker will reportedly switch to 100% locally sourced renewable energy in its manufacturing plants by 2035.