On the heels of President Obama’s re-election, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and motivated by the urgency of global climate change, Bill McKibben and 350 took to the streets of the U.S. on a nationwide Do the Math tour encouraging students to petition their universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Last month 192 universities agreed to divest and just last week Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced that he would be pushing to make sure the city divests its pension funds from the fossil fuel industry. Here are eight reasons why we need this movement and why you should be a part of it.
1. In the last year alone, the U.S. has struggled to contend with extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, the drought across the Midwest, and the wildfires that spread through Colorado. These events are serious reminders of the need to act now in order to avoid climate catastrophe.
2. Scientists have warned us that moving beyond a 2 degree increase in global temperature will mean catastrophe. In order to stay below this mark, we need to avoid burning more than 500 gigatons of carbon dioxide. The fossil fuel industry has 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide in their reserves, over five times more carbon than is safe to burn.
3. Though fossil fuel companies generate a return on investment, our communities will suffer far greater economic and financial losses from the impacts of unmitigated climate change. As Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wrote, “Our infrastructure, our businesses, and our communities would face greater risk of damages and losses due to turbulent weather that climate change causes.”
4. Millions of dollars are spent by the fossil fuel industry to spread misinformation, cause confusion, and block political progress and clean energy solutions. Big oil spends $167,000 daily lobbying the U.S. Congress.
5. We have the clean energy solutions (wind, solar, and hydrogen batteries could power the nation 99.9% of the time) necessary to prevent climate catastrophe (see this article), but the fossil fuel lobby has put the kibosh on any sort of meaningful climate legislation. In order to see the political action we need, we have to weaken the industry’s hold on Congress.
6. Universities (along with cities, states, and religious organizations) have historically been able to effect change by divesting from industries like the tobacco industry or immoral regimes like Apartheid South Africa. The fossil fuel industry is acting in a manner that undermines the progress we need to make in order to avoid disastrous consequences. It’s time to invest in our future.
7. It’s easier than you think. Complete divestment is difficult to do all at once so 350 has come up with a plan to make it more manageable. The divestment plan asks for an immediate freeze on new investments and a complete phase out over the next five years. As the Do the Math campaign says, “This is not only manageable, it’s the right thing to do.”
8. Colleges and universities are institutions focused on education, progress, and the future of the students they’re committed to. It’s counterintuitive for these organizations to be investing money in an industry actively undermining the future of the youth.