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300 Stanford professors call for full fossil fuel divestment



Some 300 professors from Stanford University, California, have called for the school to fully divest from the fossil fuels industry, arguing that the magnitude of climate change calls for a thorough commitment, not a partial solution.

In May last year, the board of trustees at the prestigious university decided not to make any more direct investments in coal mining companies, stating that the energy source is polluting and no longer necessary given the clean alternatives now available. The school also said it would divest from the holdings it currently owns in such firms.

However, professors at the university are now calling for the school to get rid of all fossil fuel investments.

A letter from the professors, which has been published in the Guardian, notes that companies currently own fossil fuel holdings sufficient to produce 2,795 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide – five times the amount recommended if global warming is to remain with the 2C limit, past which scientists have warned that the effects of climate change will become more extreme and unpredictable.

“In short, for companies to exploit these holdings – as they must, to turn a profit – would mean raising atmospheric carbon dioxide to cataclysmic levels,” the scientists add.

The signatories continued, “65% of all carbon holdings are in coal reserves, and [last May’s] significant act of divestment is proof of the university’s resolve to act to counter climate disruption. This resolve must now encompass the reality that, once coal is taken out of the equation, the remains 35% reserves in oil and gas holdings still represent 978 gigatonnes of carbon, nearly double the 565 gigatonne cap.

“The urgency and magnitude of climate change call not for partial solutions, however admirable; they demand the profound and thorough commitment embodied in divestment from all fossil fuel companies.”

Among the signatories, who also argue that continuing fossil fuel investment presents a “paradox” as the university seeks to educate youth to achieve a bright future whilst simultaneously investing in the destruction of the future, are former Stanford president Donald Kennedy and two Nobel Prize winners, Professor Douglas Osheroff and Professor Roger Kornberg.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign has been spreading across the US over the last few years and has since spread further afield, including the UK and Australia. Universities, councils and pension funds have all been involved in the movement, with more and more committing to cut out fossil fuels.

Photo: squeaks2569 via Flickr 

Further reading:

Divestment: University of London’s school freezes fossil fuels investment

Fossil fuel divestment campaigns can help ‘stigmatise’ industry

Global day of action for fossil fuel divestment announced

Oxford City Council commits to fossil fuel divestment

CAER stands by ANU fossil fuel divestment advice