Industries Buried Internal Findings
Climate Wording Cut From Public Report
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 25, 2009
A group funded by fossil-fuel-dependent companies that argued for years that human-generated greenhouse gases were not driving global warming was advised by its own scientists that this was the case, according to documents submitted as part of an ongoing lawsuit between auto manufacturers and states seeking to regulate vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions.
The Global Climate Coalition, a group of representatives of the oil, auto and coal industries, spent years telling the public that the link between human activity and climate change was too uncertain to justify U.S. participation in the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 treaty aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. In 1995, however, a "primer" on the issue produced by the organization's own scientific experts concluded that "the scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied."
This language was deleted from the primer when the group released it to the public.
Existence of the deleted material was first reported yesterday by the New York Times, which received it from a lawyer involved in a suit between the state of California and automakers; The Washington Post obtained a copy from the Sierra Club, which is also involved in the case.
William O'Keefe, who chaired the group before it folded in 2002, denied that the organization made an effort to suppress science suggesting a link between carbon-based emissions and climate change. He said the Times article "creates the impression the companies within the GCC intentionally tried to mislead the public on the human impact on the climate. That is absolute fiction. What we said then is there was enough uncertainty about the extent of human influence that it would not justify the Kyoto Protocol."
David Bookbinder, the Sierra Club's chief climate counsel, said it was notable that three of the parties in the case -- the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, General Motors and Chrysler -- had earlier dropped one of their legal claims that would have compelled them to hand over documents related to climate change science. Another party, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, turned over the primer.
"The only conceivable reason they would drop their claim is they were afraid to share their documents on climate change with the public or the courts," Bookbinder said.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), one of the Senate's most vocal proponents of climate legislation, said the revelation of the deleted material "underscores the need to be wary of some of the industry studies and analyses that will come out" in the coming months as Congress debates whether to impose a mandatory limit on greenhouse gas emissions.
Former vice president Al Gore also attacked the Global Climate Coalition yesterday in a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, comparing it to disgraced financier Bernard Madoff. "They have committed a fraud larger than Madoff's fraud," Gore said. "They lied to people who trusted them, in order to make money."
In a sign of how much has changed over the past dozen years, former members of the defunct industry group now endorse a cap-and-trade bill to curb emissions.
"The utility industry doesn't dispute the science or the need for federal legislation," said Dan Riedinger of the Edison Electric Institute. "Our focus is on urging lawmakers to enact a climate bill that cuts emissions but also protects our customers from sharply higher costs."