On April 7, Al Gore, founder and chair of the Climate Reality Project, spoke at Harvard University about the need to tackle climate change. The first topic he addressed? Fossil fuel divestment.
After bringing up divestment by name, he said:
[There will be] trillion[s of] dollars of stranded subprime carbon assets, and I've spent a lot of time in the investment community analyzing the great global shift, now. And I suggested [in 2013] that it'd be good for Harvard to take a look at the spreadsheet analysis of what was likely to happen. Well, according to three different NGOs in the three years since then, the Harvard endowment has lost roughly 200 million dollars on the carbon assets that were kept. And I don't mean that in a...well, I don't mean it in a mean way at all, but I care about this institution a great deal...
The behavioral scientists talk about the "endowment bias" - no pun intended. They also talk about the "status quo bias" or the "system justification principle" - we have a need to believe that things are basically ok, and if they're not, it creates anxiety, so we try to push it off. We need to speed up the shift away from dirty, carbon-rich fuels toward a true renewable economy. And I would dearly love, for economic reasons alone, to see Harvard leading the way.
In 2013, Gore endorsed fossil fuel divestment at Harvard. Since then, not only has the university refused to divest its publicly traded stocks, but it has also invested new private equity in oil and gas exploration and production, despite research showing this to be inconsistent with the Paris Agreement and despite estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that investments in fossil fuel extraction need to decrease by about $100 billion per year for the next two decades to meet climate goals.
See the video below for Al Gore at Harvard. What do you think Harvard should do?