ERIC WOLFERT, ENERGY & THE ENVIRONMENT DIRECTOR
GW Roosevelt Institute has voted to support Fossil Free GW and their work to persuade the university to divest all of its holdings in fossil fuels. The Fossil Fuel industry is chiefly responsible for anthropogenic climate change, as well as significant damages to public health. As progressives, ignoring climate change and its causes would betray our work and passion for a future of good jobs and more equitable health outcomes.
The dire warnings regarding the dangers of climate change, propagated by everyone from the Department of Defense to Pope Francis, have often fallen on deaf ears. However, the reality remains heartbreakingly simple: If carbon dioxide emissions, particularly from burning of coal and oil, continue unchecked, the world stands to suffer from increased extreme weather, famine, drought, and devastating hardship, particularly for those in poor and developing countries.
The George Washington University has repeatedly asserted itself as caring about environmental and sustainability issues, and is ranked among the most sustainable universities in the country. Therefore, it must do its part on climate change even as many continue to drag their feet. We should join 13 other universities, a number of cities including Seattle and San Francisco, and dozens of religious institutions in making sure that tuition dollars--the ones we are investing to become future world leaders--are not financing climate change through GW’s holdings in fossil fuel companies. This is far from a radical decision; many have already endorsed such an idea on economics alone. While information regarding just how much money an individual university or other entity holds in a given industry is often difficult to find, we do know that fossil fuel investments comprise 13% of the total stock market in the United States, so it is not difficult to imagine that university investments are substantial. It is a question of simple economics: It is only a matter of time before energies such as coal and oil become less profitable, and other, more profitable and sustainable energy sources will take their place.
Allies of the divestment movement are rightly concerned that divestment from any potentially profitable industry would hurt the university’s bottom line, which could threaten cuts to vital programs, such as financial aid. These concerns are valid, but easily addressed. The market for new energies, particularly solar, is rising at historic rates. Inherently, it is causing coal stocks to decline as citizens continue to switch out traditional fossil fuels for renewable sources of energy, particularly solar. While fossil fuels often give the image of being a reliable economic investment due to their relative ubiquity, a growing body of evidence suggests that this isn’t the case.
This movement can and should find allies across the political spectrum. Liberals and progressives will find divestment desirable for the reasons stated above: a moral imperative to protect the world’s poor and our environment. Conservatives and libertarians should find the proposal desirable as a market-oriented method of mitigating climate change--one that does not require government intervention or mandates. Climate change can be a complicated issue, but our solutions don’t need to be.
OUR OFFICIAL BLOG
The Roosevelt Reader is a space where RI@GW members discuss innovative policy solutions to the pressing political issues facing the District, the nation, and the world.
WRITE FOR US
Your ideas matter. And we want to help broadcast them to the world. Learn more how to become a blog contributor.