Local Case for Fossil Fuel Investment Divestment

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4/8/14 Article from Wicked Local in Ipswich, Mass.

Have you ever felt frustrated because the big fossil fuel companies keep burning coal, oil, and gas rather than investing in renewable energy like solar and wind?

Or does it make you angry that these companies have already discovered adequate quantities of fossil fuels to raise the temperature of the planet to a level not compatible with life as we know it, yet they continue to invest in further exploration?

Or are you concerned that they have the resources to spend so heavily on lobbying to maintain the status quo?

Other Ipswich residents are.

As a result, ICARE, the Ipswich Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy, supported a panel discussion presented by 350ma.org on Saturday, March 29, at the Ipswich Public Library, that explored the feasibility of addressing climate change through divestment of personal and institutional assets from fossil fuel companies.

The panel included members of the sponsor organizations, a financial advisor, and a representative of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cambridge that is in the process of divesting their assets from fossil fuel companies.

Also on the panel was Sean Keith, a student at Pingree School, representing a group of students working to have Pingree divest its assets from fossil fuel companies.

The panel presentation kicked off with a short segment of the “Do the Math” documentary featuring Bill McKibben of 350.org. This has played several times on ICAM local access TV, Comcast channel 9, and Verizon channel 33.

McKibben noted three critical numbers: 2 degrees celsius is the highest temperature increase the earth can stand before life as we know it is dramatically altered, 20 percent is the amount of already discovered fossil fuel resources that can ever be burned before we reach the 2 degrees Celsius threshold, and 350 parts per million is the highest level of carbon dioxide that can be in the atmosphere without major climate change. The current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about 401 parts per million and rising.

Yes, we are in trouble.

All the panelists agreed divestment was one important approach to climate change — to reduce the availability of capital to the fossil fuel companies, and to emphasize how concerned we all are about their actions. They also felt a divestment campaign, through schools, non-profits, retirement funds, and personal accounts, is important in educating people about the issues and efforts that people can participate in to address it. Panelists also pointed out that as more people understand the breadth of the problem and the excess of fuel reserves already known and under development, the carbon bubble will burst and the value of investments in them will drop. It makes good fiduciary sense to divest.

One of the panelists went through a series of arguments that have been made against divestment and addressed how each of them is refuted. Another panelist read quotes from a variety of officials in the know, including the president of the World Bank, who recommended divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewables.

If you missed the panel in Ipswich, there will be another in Salem on Saturday, April 26, 10 a.m. at the First Church Unitarian Universalist and in Gloucester on Saturday, May 10, 10 a.m. at the Sawyer Library. A similar panel held earlier this year in Massachusetts will be shown this coming Sunday, April 6 at 8 p.m. on ICAM, Comcast channel 9 and Verizon channel 33.

Carolyn Britt is a member of 350ma.org

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