Harvard’s sevenfold increase in oil and gas investments in the third quarter of 2014 flies in the face of campaigns urging the university to divest from fossil fuels. Photograph: Paul Weiskel/Corbis
Suzanne Goldenberg Wed 14 Jan 2015 07.40 EST
Harvard has newly invested tens of millions of dollars in oil and gas companies, rebuffing campaigners’ demands to sever the wealthy university’s ties to the companies that cause climate change.
The university’s refusal to withdraw an $32.7bn endowment from fossil fuels has frustrated campaigners and resulted in a law suit brought by seven Harvard students. The university – the world’s richest – is due to appear in court next month.
Now it emerges Harvard increased its holdings in publicly traded oil and gas companies by a factor of seven during the third financial quarter of 2014, the latest data available.
The new investments increased Harvard’s stake in oil and gas companies – including those involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and fracking – from $11.8m (£7.8m) to about $79.5m, according to an analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings by campus divestment activists.
Jim Recht, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and a supporter of the divestment campaign, described the new oil and gas holdings as “blood money” and said they indicated Harvard’s unwillingness to review its policies despite the growing awareness of the dangers of climate change.
“That’s blood money,” he said. “It is making money out of something we see as fundamentally illicit.”
Environmentalists rally in Boston in February 2014 to demand state legislators support a bill requiring divestment from the state’s fossil fuel holdings Photograph: Paul Weiskel/Paul Weiskel/Demotix/Corbis
The speed at which the fossil fuel divestment campaign is growing seems to have rattled its opponents in the coal and oil lobbies
Wed 11 Feb 2015 13.18 EST
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you,” said Mahatma Gandhi. The climate change campaign to divest from fossil fuels seems to be moving through those stages at express speed, with a sudden barrage of attacks from the coal and oil lobbies ahead of its global divestment day on Valentine’s day.
The speed is appropriate given that the campaign, which argues the fossil fuel industry is a danger to both the climate and investors’ capital, is the fastest growing divestment campaign yet seen, moving quicker than those against tobacco and apartheid. It’s moving fast in the financial world too, with one finance executive calling it “one of the fastest-moving debates I think I’ve seen in my 30 years in markets”.
Let’s take the “laugh at you first”. This unintentionally hilarious cartoon, from a front group for a well-known anti-environmental PR firm, suggests that divestment will kill your “love affair” with fossil fuels, basically leaving you living in a dark cave.
Environmentalists rally in Boston, US, to demand state legislators support a bill that would require divestment from the state’s fossil fuel holdings. Photograph: Paul Weiskel/Corbis
This Q&A is part of the Guardian’s ultimate climate change FAQ
Divestment is the opposite of investment – it is the removal of stocks, bonds or funds from certain sectors or companies. The global movement for fossil fuel divestment (sometimes also called disinvestment) is asking institutions to move their money out of oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons. These institutions include universities, religious institutions, pension funds, local authorities and charitable foundations.
Evidence shows that proven fossil fuel reserves are more than three times higher than we can afford to burn in order to stay below the generally agreed threshold for dangerous climate change. Fossil fuel companies are currently banking on extracting these reserves and selling them – and are actively prospecting for more. By supporting these companies, investors not only continue to fund unsustainable business models that are bound to make climate change worse, but they also risk their financial assets becoming worthless if international agreements on climate change are met. These investments are creating a “carbon bubble” worth trillions of dollars based on assets that could prove to be unusable. The Bank of England is conducting an investigation into whether these over-valued assets could plunge the world into another economic crisis. Although the impact of divestment on share prices may be relatively small, the reputational damage can have serious financial consequences.
…. (read more).
The science is clear. We’re taking action.
As a University community, we have a responsibility to act on the research and insights from our faculty and students.
Our climate action plan will build on our past progress and use the campus to confront the difficult questions posed by climate change and test promising new solutions that move Harvard, and the world, away from fossil fuels.
These ambitious goals will be challenging to reach, but the grave risks climate change poses to our health and our planet’s future require essential action. Harvard must remain vigorous in supporting students, faculty, and staff who are championing ideas, expertise, and action related to climate change. – Harvard President Drew Faust
The John W. Weeks Bridge, often called the Weeks Footbridge (or simply Weeks Bridge), links the Harvard campus to the Harvard Business School. During Drew Faust’s term as President it underwent restoration to improve communications between the undergraduate campus and the business school. On September 21, 2015 the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation held a ribbon cutting to mark completion of the $3 million bridge renovation. Prior to this ceremony, however, the Weeks bridge was the location for student protests opposing Harvard’s inaction in the national divestment movement and objecting to what many saw as the dominant role that corporations and the Harvard Business School have come to play in determining the policies of the university as a whole under the Faust Presidency.
Published on Feb 6, 2018
Harvard Business School Professor and Co-Chair of the 2016-2017 Climate Change Task Force Rebecca Henderson discusses Harvard’s new Climate Action Plan and explains the University’s decision to become Fossil Fuel-Free by 2050 and Fossil Fuel-Neutral by 2026. Learn more: www.green.harvard.edu/climate
[Amidst all the publicity about “greening” Harvard, one question persists: what is the relation of “Green Harvard” to the institution’s fossil fuel investment/divestment policy? Why has the university failed to commit publicly to “greening” its investments? If it is true that — as Harvard Magazine asserts — “The science is clear. We’re taking action.” then why does that action not extend to the way the institution invests the billions of dollars to make its educational efforts possible in the first place? — Transition Studies]
[ The John W. Weeks Bridge, often called the Weeks Footbridge (or simply Weeks Bridge), links the Harvard campus to the Harvard Business School. During Drew Faust’s term as President it underwent restoration to improve communications between the undergraduate campus and the business school. On September 21, 2015 the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation held a ribbon cutting to mark completion of the $3 million bridge renovation.
Prior to this ceremony, however, – as the photographs by Paul Weiskel published in The Guardian indicate — the Weeks bridge was the location for student protests opposing Harvard’s inaction in the national divestment movement and objecting to what many saw as the dominant role that corporations and the Harvard Business School have come to play in determining the policies of the university as a whole under the Faust Presidency.
It will be revealing to observe if President designate Lawrence Bacow retains this divestment policy, allowing corporate perspectives to dominate and overrule scientific, moral and ethical concerns in this important field of university policy in the face of the expressed concerns of both the faculty and student divestment movement.]
A story from VICE News compares the approach of a meteorologist in Birmingham who questions climate science and refuses to discuss climate change on the air, with a meteorologist in Detroit who believes local weather forecasters shouldn’t shy away from the subject.
“A survey of around 2,000 American Meteorological Society members released last year revealed that 38 percent of meteorologists aren’t convinced that humans are the main cause of climate change. That statistic may explain why in some parts of the country, it’s still novel to hear a TV meteorologist discuss climate change during a daily forecast — or even when talking about extreme weather events.”
Forecast the Facts: Is your meteorologist blowing hot air?
Climate Change Education Through TV Weathercasts
A 2017 National Survey of Broadcast Meteorologists
Climate Central: Climate Matters
TV Meteorologists as Local Climate Change Educators
Let’s Talk Communities and Climate
Public perceptions of climate change in Britain