The movement is growing as people are coming together to acknowledge that it is wrong to profit from wrecking the climate. Oil, coal, and gas cause climate change and now is the time to divest from dirty sources of energy that imperil our planet. It is also time to bring an end to fossil fuel subsidies which the International Monetary Fund estimates to be worth a total of 1.9 trillion taxpayer dollars each year.
“Cities in particular can help pinpoint the absurdity of, on the one hand, spending huge sums to build seawalls while at the same time investing in the companies that make it necessary,” 350.org founder and president, Bill McKibben, said in an email.
Already ten American cities are committed to pursuing divestment of their public funds, as are a number of schools. While focused in the US, the campaign is spreading to countries like Australia and Canada. Divestment from fossil fuels has taken place in cities like Seattle and religious institutions like Uniting Church of New South Wales.
“The logic of divestment is pretty simple,” says Jay Carmona, who recently joined 350.org to oversee off-campus divestment projects. “If you don’t like what a company is doing, you don’t pay them to do it.”
Last fall, 350.org held a series of rallies in 21 cities across the U.S., making the case that combating climate change requires fossil fuel companies to leave a large portion of their reserves in the ground — and that large-scale divestment by their shareholders could help convince them to do so. Since then more than 250 colleges and universities have spawned student- or faculty-led divestment campaigns.
We are already seeing the impacts of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels with extreme weather, melting of Arctic ice, ocean acidity, rising sea levels and a global temperature rise of 0.8 degrees. As atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) approach 400 parts per million we are in desperate need of immediate action.
To stave off the worst impacts of climate change we must stop our wanton exploitation of fossil fuels. A moratorium on investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure is the obvious next step, said Asad Rehman, head of international climate at Friends of the Earth in the UK. “It’s illogical to be making new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure,” Rehmand said.
Nearly 70 percent of known reserves of oil, gas and coal must remain in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change. However, rather than slow efforts to exploit new resources the energy industry spend 674 billion dollars in 2012 looking for more.
Mass divestment works on a variety of levels, including the fact that it will make other investors wary of the risks associated with investing in the fossil fuels industry. In place of investing in fossil fuels there are greener alternatives that can perform at least as well.
This movement is not only about the money divested it is also about the political and cultural impacts. The goal is to create a groundswell of interest that influences public opinion and exposes the moral bankruptcy of the fossil fuel industry.
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© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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