A movement is growing across America and the world to take back our future from the fossil fuel industry. Today the continued use of fossil fuels in the US reduces GDP through price shocks, wealth transfer to oil producing nations, public health consequences of pollution, and damage to environmental resources. Climate change, too, threatens to devastate the global economy, exacerbate poverty and hunger, and engender ecological collapse.
The fossil fuel industry stands squarely behind our continued movement down this unsustainable path. Simultaneously, the social clout of the same industry is standing in the way of policies to foster a green economy that would employ more people with better jobs, improve public health, increase food production, and restore natural resources.
Fossil fuels may be highly risky investments, because of the realities of climate change. Five times as much carbon exists in economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves as we can safely burn, based on the internationally-agreed-upon 2 degree Celsius limit in average global temperature rise. That’s temperature rise, since the industrial revolution. We’ve locked in about 4/5ths of that rise by emitting carbon – and experienced half of the rise already. In order to avoid runaway climate change – a poor global economic scenario which could intensify conflict, as much as 80 percent of fossil fuel assets may be stranded. Avoiding investment in this “carbon bubble” is thus prudent financial policy as well as socially and environmentally forward thinking.
Because of all this, students on hundreds of college campuses in the US are going after the social power of the fossil fuel industry through divestment campaigns like this one. Fossil Free GW’s ultimate goal is the complete divestment of GW’s endowment from 200 companies that own the world’s economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves. We also want GW to design and implement a reinvestment strategy that will replace fossil fuel investments with investments in the green economy. Our on-campus movement will not exist in isolation, but will be in solidarity with similar movements in other universities including Harvard, Columbia, Tufts, American, Brandeis, Stanford, UC, and dozens of others.
Fossil Free GW’s goal is not to antagonize the university or “start a fight”. Instead, we want to foster a partnership that will allow GW to live up to its rhetoric by becoming a true leader in sustainability.