In 2014, Student Union passed a resolution supporting the university to divest its endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies by an overwhelming majority of 14-2. A lack of response from the administration on these efforts, along with associated social justice issues as well as economic and national security, has left us deeply unsatisfied with the institution’s financial support of the fossil fuel industry.
By burning fossil fuels, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has quantified a carbon budget available to burn to keep average global temperature increases in the future to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Above that, scientists deem effects to be catastrophic, stressing that at the current rate of fossil fuel consumption we will exceed this limit in 30 years. The University needs to take swift and strong action toward mitigating these problems.
It is our time as a leading university to take a stand against the injustices committed against our families, neighbors, communities and futures. Not only morally driven, this objective is financially sound. In fact, many faith groups, municipalities, businesses, colleges, and universities have already taken pledges to divest from fossil fuels. A study conducted by the Aperio Investment Management Group estimated that divesting from fossil fuels will have a negligible impact on the university’s finances.
As a leading scientific institution, WashU has an obligation to acknowledge and respond to the overwhelming scientific consensus that the continued use of fossil fuels will exacerbate climate change. Wash U and other universities have a unique opportunity to stand up as responsible world leaders and motivate large-scale action for a sustainable future. This issue is only going to grow in importance. Though we acknowledge the university’s current commitment to sustainability, if we truly want to be sustainable Wash U needs to divest from fossil fuels.
A better future is possible. WashU just has to invest in it.