Ford Motor Company announced Friday that it is leaving the
Global Climate Coalition (GCC), the industry-funded lobbying group whose
members have spent millions of dollars to convince the public that global
warming isn't real and Congress not to do anything about the problem. Ford is
the largest American corporation to leave the GCC, following similar actions
by British Petroleum and Shell. "This is one of the clearest signs to date
that the debate over global warming is coming to a close," said John
Passacantando, Executive Director of Ozone Action, "In the same way that the
GCC's power over the years has represented industry's unwillingness to
acknowledge global warming, its current disintegration is a signal that
corporate America is finally recognizing the reality of the threat."
In a letter regarding his company's actions, Bill Ford
Jr., Ford's Chairman of the Board, acknowledged the company's intent "to move
forward in progressive and constructive ways to address environmental issues."
The move positions Bill Ford among the growing ranks of CEO's such as John
Browne of British Petroleum, George David of United Technologies, and Mark
Moody-Stuart of Shell Oil, who have left the ranks of global warming skeptics
to call instead for solutions to the problem. Ford's action is especially
significant both because of the size of the company's and its departure from
the US auto manufacturers' traditional solidarity in denying the existence or
importance of global warming.
Ford's announcement comes at a time when scientific evidence
and natural signals point with increasing certainty and urgency to the
existence of global warming. The BBC recently reported on the draft release of
a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's leading
body of experts on the issue. (Climate Change Warning - BBC News, 11/18/99)
The IPPC's report warns: · "entire forest types may disappear" · "a net
decrease in global biodiversity" will be likely · drought and floods "are
projected to become a larger problem in many temperate and humid regions" · a
probable decrease of crop yields in the tropics and subtropics will occur This
draft report is reinforced by research released in the latest issue of the
journal Science that indicates that the amount of sea ice in arctic waters "is
shrinking, on average, by about 14,000 square miles a year." (Arctic Sea Ice
Is Rapidly Dwindling - Washington Post,12/2/99).
In the face of such dire warnings from scientists and
nature, Ford's actions have given some a sense of hope. "We have all suffered
from a decade of lies on global warming from corporate America. Now we finally
have Bill Ford Jr., Chairman of one of our country's largest manufacturers,
standing up saying that he wants to tell the truth about our most pressing
environmental crisis. It makes for a promising end to the century,"
Shareholders are very encouraged by Ford's actions.
Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, through her work with the Interfaith Center on
Corporate Responsibility has led the dialogue with religious institutional
shareholders and Bill Ford Jr. since he took over as Chairman of the Board in
January. She contends that, "Ford has made a great commitment in their belief
that the bottom line must also embrace a responsibility for God's creation.
Leaving the GCC is an absolute challenge to other companies; Ford has dared to
be consistent on this issue where so many others have not."
The GCC has historically maintained a daunting presence in
the global warming debate through the stature of its members and their
insistence that there is inadequate scientific certainty to take action. Over
the last ten years, its members have contributed more than $63 million dollars
to federal candidates and national parties. (Common Cause - "Some Like It
Hot," 11/30/99). Ford's contributions over this period are roughly $2 million.
The GCC's message has ranged from denial of global warming science ("Certainly
Uncertain" - GCC website: www.globalclimate.org) to claims that
global warming will actually be good for us ("Warmer World May Not Be Bad" -
Recently, the GCC has suffered the loss of some of it's most
prominent members. In addition to Ford, both British Petroleum and Shell Oil
have left the coalition in the last two years. Shell, in particular cited its
desire to "set targets for CO2 emission reductions" as the reason for it's
departure from the coalition. (Octane Week, 4/28/98) The actions of BP and
Shell, in addition to the growth of the Pew Center on Climate Change, a
coalition of Fortune 500 companies that recognize the threat of global
warming, caused the Wall Street Journal to recently note "In major corners of
corporate America, it's suddenly becoming cool to fight global warming." (Wall
Street Journal, 10/18/99)
Student activists in several universities around the country
also welcome the action. Bill Holland, of Grinnell College in Iowa said, "Our
elected officials have failed to stop global warming because of industry
opposition. Maybe now we can move on and actually figure out how to solve this
crisis." Grinnell is one of 20 universities nationwide that have launched
campaigns calling on their administrations to divest from GCC member
corporations in protest to their position on global warming.
When told of the news, many environmental leaders expressed
great hope. "The leadership that Ford is demonstrating by leaving the GCC will
serve as an example to other companies - that global warming is real and is a
serious issue that must be addressed," said Denis Hayes, Chair of Earth Day
Bill Ford Jr. has stated that, "While my great-grandfather
(Henry Ford) was a leader in the first industrial revolution, I want Ford
Motor Company to be a leader in the second industrial revolution - the Clean
Revolution." (Tomorrow - Sept., 1999). With today's withdrawal from the GCC he
may have taken the most important step so far in leading his
great-grandfather's company down that path.