Photo: Seth Wenig (AP)

Automakers are preaching the gospel of clean energy when it comes to their plans for electric cars, but when it comes to vehicle emission standards—which are currently being reevaluated—they’ve turned to refuting basic science that’s behind climate change.


The New York Times highlighted the conflicting narrative in a story on Wednesday. In a regulatory filing, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers—one of the largest lobbying groups for carmakers—also attempted to refute that tailpipe pollution impacts human health.

Both arguments, the Times said, go against “well-established, widely accepted scientific research.” And it offers up a major escalation in the auto industry’s effort to overturn fuel emission standards that were set by the Obama administration. President Donald Trump’s office launched a new analysis of the rules and plans to issue new recommendations at some point this year.

Here’s more:

Quoting news articles and studies, the Alliance’s filing suggests that climate scientists may be “tuning” their models to achieve desired results.

“Nearly every model has been calibrated precisely to the 20th century climate records — otherwise it would have ended up in the trash,” reads a quote from a 2016 story in Science magazine on climate modeling. “Choices and compromises made during the tuning exercise may significantly affect model results,” reads another quote from a 2017 study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.


There’s a problem, however. The lobby group appears to have cherry-picked the quotes and misrepresented the point of the article, the Times says.

“Those quotes are accurate, but they are selective and do not accurately represent the entirety of the news story,” Paul Voosen, the author of the Science article, said in an email. Any uncertainty in climate modeling, he said, “is about the speed of warming — how fast sea level and temperature will rise — not uncertainty about warming’s direction or cause.”

“No, climate scientists do not tune their data to support their conclusions,” added Frédéric Hourdin, the lead author of the Bulletin study and a researcher at the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique in Paris.


Naturally, the paper followed up with every automaker that’s represented by the lobbying group. This includes General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche, Mitsubishi and Mazda. None responded to their request for comment.

A BMW spokesperson told the newspaper that it’s committed to reducing emissions with improved fuel economy, but didn’t directly speak to climate change science.


Honda, while not a part of the lobbying group, was the “only automaker we contacted that clearly acknowledged the reality of human-caused climate change,” according to the Times.

A spokesman, Chris Martin, said Honda supported the stricter Obama-era rules as well as “efforts to curb climate change caused by carbon emissions.”


I thought the Trump administration’s reported justification for reconsidering the standards was stupid, but the automaker’s perspective here trumps it. By far.

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk

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