Fossil Fuel Divestment: A Growing Movement

Fossil fuel divestment has become a popular strategy in the multifaceted fight against climate change. A hopeful number of organizations, townships and companies have made the move to divest from fossil fuels this year.

Peoples Climate March

About 400,000 people rallied to demand climate change action during the People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014.

Photo by Flickr/Climate Action Network International/John Minchillo

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Money is shifting away from coal, oil and gas thanks to a growing coalition that's pressuring universities and other prominent institutions to divest from fossil fuels.

Even the heirs of John D. Rockefeller — a man who built a vast fortune on oil — are divesting fossil fuels from the family’s philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. To date, dozens of foundations and institutions (including the British Medical Association and the Sierra Club), hundreds of churches, 30-some municipalities (including Madison, Wis., San Francisco and Seattle), and at least a dozen colleges and universities (including Stanford University) have decided to divest funds they once held in the fossil fuel industry. Boycotts have worked to spur sweeping social change before, and today’s fossil fuel divestment organizers hope to be as successful as the divestment campaign that played a key role in overturning apartheid in South Africa.

Are these seemingly big moves having a big impact? “I would say it’s absolutely working,” says Jay Carmona, national divestment campaign manager with 350.org, the nonprofit group leading the way on the divestment efforts. (The number 350 comes from the maximum parts per million, or ppm, of atmospheric carbon dioxide climate scientists agree will maintain our planet’s ecological health. The level is already past 400 ppm, and it’s rising by about 2 ppm each year.) “Divestment is spreading and becoming more global. Campaigns are launching in Australia and Europe, including in the Netherlands,” Carmona says.

Organizers at 350.org launched the Fossil Free project primarily on moral grounds: Investing in companies that profit from burning fossil fuels is morally wrong, they reasoned, even if such investments yield good returns for the investors. Burning coal, oil and gas releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus contributing to air pollution and climate change. “Fossil fuel companies’ profits come from the destruction of communities and the planet,” Carmona says.

Divesting isn’t just about taking a moral stand, though — it makes long-term financial sense, too. Investors can earn just as much money by shifting their investments to companies listed in the new Fossil Free Indexes, a set of resources founded by Stuart Braman, former managing director of the Risk Solutions Group at Standard & Poor (S&P). The Indexes are based on the S&P 500, but omit the largest coal, oil and gas companies identified on the Carbon Underground 200 list.

Fossil-free investing also protects portfolios from the obsolescence of fossil fuel resources, Carmona adds, given that many countries are moving to reduce pollution and slow climate change by taxing the burning of fossil fuels — a way to make oil and gas companies pay for the true costs of their business.

The Risky Business Project, co-founded by climate activists and government players, published a report in June 2014 called “A Climate Risk Assessment for the United States.” According to the report, continuing on our current, fossil fuel-dependent path will have grave effects on people and the economy: rising sea levels, agricultural disruption, and risks to labor productivity and human health.

This warning is echoed by the Third National Climate Assessment, the authoritative and comprehensive report on climate change and its impacts in the United States, released in May by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The good news? The report says we can still reduce these risks by aggressively adapting to climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

The fossil fuel industry has “five times as much carbon in its reserves as it would take to break the planet,” wrote Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone in his open invitation to attend a massive climate demonstration in New York City in September 2014, which coincided with the U.N.’s Climate Summit. Keeping that carbon out of the atmosphere was paramount for the 400,000 people from around the world who marched through the city.

“I think it signifies new territory,” Carmona says of the diverse coalition that came together for the march. “It’s just the beginning.”

upnorthmn
1/16/2015 6:48:52 PM

With out fossil fuels, we might as well live like our ancestors 110 years ago


beezelybub
12/9/2014 11:25:33 AM

The Rockefellers divested from oil, but they still want your carbon tad dollars. This is why they fund 350.org. What if you saw and heard stuff that rocks your little world? Would you change? No, you would not. Would you like to forget it? Yes, you would. But, some things are so horrible that you just can't unsee them. Of all the terrible things you are about to see, these next 2 points are the very worst. ► When I was young, I was told my cereal box was more nutritious than my cereal. ► Now, they put the cardboard right into the cereal and say it's better than the box. ► We shoot bacteria DNA directly into plant DNA and eat it. ► We put man-made, computer designed, synthetic DNA into our food. ► We put nano metals and nano particles into our food. ► We put pesticides and herbicides directly into food cells. ► There are thousands of different chemicals in our foods. ► We are eating stuff that never, ever existed on earth before. ► We are turning into genetic mutants because of our food. ► We are wiping out all life on earth because of our food. Life is simple: James Hansen wants you to get 100% of your carbon taxes back, Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein do not. Don't believe me? Then ask them, if you are able, that's why the Rockefellers fund 350.org. When governments and corporations get control of carbon taxes, we're finished. In, “Years Of Living Dangerously” we learned the Indonesian mafia killed all the elephants in a nature preservation park just to get rid of the need for a park. These guys clear cut forests, replace the forests with palm-oil trees, and sell the palm-oil to put into gasoline in Europe. They make money selling lumber, collecting tax carbon credits and selling the palm-oil to burn in cars. Win-win-win. Unless you're an elephant. In, “Virunga” on Netflix, we learned the Congolese mineral mafia is killing off the last Mountain Gorillas so that the need for a national park will cease to exist. Cell phones don’t run on love, you can ask the 2 million children murdered there since 1998, or the 1 million Iraqi children our oil embargo killed in the 1990s. People may think me misanthropic, but that’s not true, some of my best friends are people. Money used to be metal coins, now money is storage of electric, metallic-mineral pulses. If you are confused by money, metal and climate, then try to think in terms of the mass of all the metals, minerals and elements — energy demand doubles by 2060 — emissions need to drop 80% by 2030 — peak minerals and peak energy hits at the same time we want to produce billions of tons of toxic lead, liquid metal or molten salt batteries — we can’t have hi-tech green energy without heavy rare earth elements and we can’t have heavy rare earth elements without digging up thorium as a radioactive waste — the only solution is to get emissions free power from plentiful thorium so we can create a better hi-tech green energy world — this is important because we are approaching post-peak minerals where we would be unable to afford large enough scales in mining, which even alone can entail collapse. The peak is a short time of several plus years. Economics is just a fancy word for hoping things don't change much more than 3% per year. WEIGHTY STUFF ► Humans and livestock were 0.01% of land vertebrate biomass 10,000 yrs. ago. ► Humans and our livestock are now 97% of land vertebrate biomass. ► Humans and our livestock eat over 40% of land chlorophyll biomas ► When we eat over half of nature’s green stuff, bad things happen to bio-diversity. ► 1,000,000 humans, net, are added to earth every 4½ days. ► 50% of vertebrate species died off in the last 50 years. ► 50% of remaining vertebrate species will die off in the next 40 years. ► +50% = Unstoppable Irreversible Catastrophic Cascading Extinctions Collapse. ► 75% Species Loss = Mass Extinction. ► Ocean acidification doubles by 2050, triples by 2100. ►World Bank says we have 5-10 years before we all fight for food and water. ► 90% of Big Ocean Fish gone since 1950. ► 90% of Lions gone since 1993. ► 90% of Monarch Butterflies gone since 1995. ► 75% of Freshwater & Riverbank Species gone since 1970. ** ► 50% of Great Barrier Reef gone since 1985. ► 50% of Human Sperm Counts gone since 1950. ► 50% of Fresh Water Fish gone since 1987. ► 40% of Giraffes gone since 2000. ► 30% of Marine Birds gone since 1995. ► 28% of Land Animals gone since 1970. ► 28% of All Marine Animals gone since 1970. ► 93 Elephants killed every single day. ► 2-3 Rhinos killed every single day. ► Bees die from malnutrition lacking bio-diverse pollen sources. ** ► 75,000 dams block U.S. rivers. ► In just 13 years, we will “lock in” an inevitable near term 6°C earth temp rise because we continually exceed the worse-case emissions scenario set out back in 2007 says climate scientist, Dr. Michael Jennings. ► Energy demands to increase 100% by 2060 says the IEA. ► Emissions have to decrease 80% by 2030 says climate scientist, Kevin Anderson. ► To power England with 100% solar & wind, requires 25% of its land says physicist, David MacKay in 2012. Even with recent improvements, it’s still a lot of land. ► 40% Green Energy requires 200% more copper says John Timmer of Ars Technica. ► Peak copper hits 2030 – 2040 says Ugo Bardi. ► Post peak copper production cannot accelerate at any price says Dave Lowell. ► This is true of any post peak mineral production. ► There is no real substitute for copper says Mat McDermott of Motherboard. ► We mined 50% of all the copper in human history in just the last 30 years. ► 100% green energy requires 500% more copper. ► Peak minerals includes more than just copper. ► By 2050, expect to be past peaks for tin, silver, cadmium and more. ► We move some 3 billion tons of earth per year to get 15 millions tons of copper. ► We can’t afford to mine 500% more copper at ever lower concentrations. ► We cannot recycle it into existence. ► We cannot conserve it into existence. ► Substituting aluminum for copper takes 5X the energy and is less safe. ► Google’s own Stanford Phd, green energy experts, Ross Koningstein and David Fork, tell IEEE Spectrum why green energy “simply won’t work” and is a “false dream”. ► Ozzie Zehner explains his book, Green Illusions, at Google Talks in 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6uVnyjTb58 ► Green Energy is our solution to Climate Change. ► But, Climate Change is only 1 of 6 Direct Drivers for Mass Extinction. ► The 6 Direct Drivers of Mass Extinction are: … 1) Invasive Species … 2) Over-Population … 3) Over-Exploitation … 4) Habitat Loss ….5) Climate Change ….6) Pollution ► Therefore,… GREEN ENERGY WILL NOT STOP MASS EXTINCTION http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/7350/Call-of-Life–Facing-the-Mass-Extinction ► Tim Garrett explains why money can’t decouple from carbon emissions growth, and how economic growth makes the world hot, as well as how efficiency and conservation only results in more growth. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0jFfUlvt6s ABOUT ME: My name is Robert Callaghan. I am a highly uncredentialed 56-year-old male who cuts grass for a living in a trailer park in Canada, the reason i know all this is because i woke up hungover with my dog licking my face using mental telepathy to explain that space aliens want to use him to tell to me to tell you that we only got one shot left and it has to be a bullseye. Here are some of the typical “liberal” reactions to what my dog is saying. Quit Barking Up The Wrong Tree?… No-o-o, Seriously! These reactions do not differ from FOX NEWS tactics. ► J’Accuse! Oil Troll! Nuclear Troll! etc. ►”Your information is inaccurate and outdated”, this may be, but most exciting “new” discoveries never make it to production, and old methods of production do not stop because they are merely somewhat outdated and post-peak minerals affects everything. ► Misdirect focus on just one or two points to the exclusion of the b-i-g picture. ► Focus attention on my character and motives instead of the facts. That doesn’t work because I am a low-life mangy cur who just doesn’t give a damn. LMAO! ► Attack the facts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t__55YiQ9Qshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t__55YiQ9Qs


peter
12/8/2014 2:21:46 AM

"Even the heirs of John D. Rockefeller "......they sure are,they are now investing in fracking!


tombergstrand
12/5/2014 7:06:49 PM

I'm with dispenser on this point. Just figure the vast amount of people without the resources to go over to wind and solar that are now totally dependent on electricity from fossil fuels. The average middle class home receives 51% of their electricity from fossil fuels. Not only the math points to a doubling of costs but another question begs. What if there are NO other sources of electricity? There are ways to cut the 400+ PPM in the atmosphere BUT a sudden jolt of electricity starvation is NOT a good choice. All things in moderation. I live rural and plan to supplement with wind and solar next year since I HAVE the resources to do it. How many people do you know that can write a check for $30K+? And if they have NO job or a poor job financing is not an option.


dispenser
12/5/2014 2:24:18 PM

Useful idiots is my thought. Solar, and wind energy are cute, and we should continue to develop them, but without fossil fuels, about 5-6 billion people would not be sustainable. Fossil fuels help grow food, and transport food to where the people live. I enjoy air conditioning in the summer, and heat in the winter. One day we may discover extremely efficient methods of solar, and wind energy, and extremely efficient batteries to store that energy with, but that is not in the immediate future. I would also point out, that many scientist are coming to believe "once again" that we are entering an age of global cooling. I believe that being more efficient in the use of energy, and encouraging greater insulation of our homes, and business makes perfect sense. Worry about your "carbon footprint" seems like a waste of time for carbon based life forms. Global warming, climate change, and even global cooling are not things you are going to change by building massive wind farms, or massive solar facilities.