GM Drives Away From Climate Denial, Dumps Heartland Institute

March 30, 2012 | 3:27 pm
David Friedman
Former contributor

The big news today is that General Motors said they’ll no longer fund a group that regularly attacks climate science.

According to the Huffington Post, “The automaker told the Heartland Institute last week that it won’t be making further donations, spokesman Greg Martin said.”

On March 7th, GM CEO Dan Akerson said his company would reevaluate their financial support for the Heartland Institute. Now we know that they are choosing to walk away from an organization that has been seeking to undermine public confidence in the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is driving disruptive changes in our climate.

Given the bad PR their past funding of Heartland created, who knows, maybe Akerson even got in a Chevy and quickly drove away from the climate deniers.

The Changing Face of Climate Change at GM

Yes, you can argue that giving GM credit for this move is setting a low bar, but it is an important step in the right direction. As my colleague Michelle Robinson has noted, we’ve been looking for signs that GM is leaving behind the legacy of former VP Bob “global warming is a crock of $#!t” Lutz, who seemed to be the face of GM on climate change.

In fact, dropping funding for Heartland is just one in a series of steps GM has taken. Their CEO took another big step to distance GM from its climate denying past during his March 7th interview when Akerson said that he “believes” in global warming. Sadly, in the same interview, Akerson noted that several GM executives chided him for admitting this in public. But change has to start somewhere, and the top is a pretty good place.

More Work on the Road Ahead

Clearly, there’s a lot more work to be done at GM. And they are not the only one. Businesses big and small will have to deal with the consequences of a changing climate and they must be part of the effort to put solutions in place.

Keeping that in mind, today’s news is good news in the effort to ensure that corporations, policymakers, and the public make decisions based on the best available science. With GM’s actions, we’re one step closer to a time when we can look back at efforts to discredit climate science the same way we now view the tobacco industry’s efforts to spread doubt about the overwhelming science on the dangers of smoking.