Climate

Pressure Mounts On Stanford University To Divest From Fossil Fuels

CREDIT: AP Photo / Jeff Chiu

Hundreds of Stanford professors are urging the university to divest its holdings from fossil fuel companies.

In a letter sent Sunday to the university, 300 Stanford professors, including two Nobel laureates, outlined the threat climate change poses to the earth and how the fossil fuel holdings contribute to that threat. They wrote that the world’s top 200 fossil fuel companies have enough fossil fuels in their reserves to release 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide, but scientists recommend that the world cap its carbon dioxide emissions to 565 gigatons over the next 40 years if it wants to keep warming below 2°C.

The Stanford professors say that, in order to do its part in helping curb climate change, Stanford should divest its endowment of all fossil fuel holdings.

“If a university seeks to educate extraordinary youth so they may achieve the brightest possible future, what does it mean for that university simultaneously to invest in the destruction of that future?” The professors write in the letter. “Given that the university has signalled (sic) its awareness of the dangers posed by fossil fuels, what are the implications of Stanford’s making only a partial confrontation with this danger? In working with our students we encourage the clarity necessary to confront complex realities and the drive to carry projects through to completion. For Stanford’s investment policies to be congruent with the clarity and drive in its classrooms, the university must divest from all fossil-­fuel companies.”

Stanford announced in May that it would divest from coal companies, calling the move a “small, but constructive, step while work continues, at Stanford and elsewhere, to develop broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future.” But, as the Guardian reports, the university invested in three more oil and gas companies a few months after announcing its break from coal. Stanford’s endowment totals $21.4 billion.

Lisa Lapin, a Stanford spokesperson, told the Guardian that a university advisory panel was looking into what further fossil fuel divestment would mean for the university.

“Stanford takes all concerns raised with the university about the nature and impact of its investments very seriously,” she said.

According to 350.org, 17 colleges and universities around the world have divested from fossil fuels so far. In addition, multiple cities, counties, religious institutions, and foundations around the world have divested. Last January, 17 foundations announced their plans to divest from fossil fuels and pledged to invest in companies working in renewable energy, efficiency and other environmental arenas.

In September, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund — the $860-million philanthropic organization set up by the heirs of oil baron John D. Rockefeller — also announced that it planned to remove coal, oil, and natural gas from its invested assets. Steven Rockefeller, one of the fund’s trustees, told the New York Times that the foundation sees the step “as having both a moral and economic dimension.”