Archive | July, 2013

Do The Math!

30 Jul

As a little preview to our screening of the exiting documentary “Do The Math” next semester here are a few numbers that all of us – even the most dyscalculic of us – should know about:

2 degrees — Almost every government in the world has agreed that any warming above a 2°C (3.6°F) rise would be unsafe. We have already raised the temperature .8°C, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the climate dice are loaded for both devastating floods and drought.

565 gigatons — Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. Computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 levels now, the temperature would still rise another 0.8 degrees above the 0.8 we’ve already warmed, which means that we’re already 4/5 of the way to the 2 degree target.

2,795 gigatons — The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts, estimates that proven coal, oil, and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies, equals about 2,795 gigatons of CO2, or five times the amount we can release to maintain 2 degrees of warming.

… To grasp the seriousness of the climate crisis, you just need to do a little math. Fossil fuel corporations have 5 times more oil and coal and gas in known reserves than climate scientists think is safe to burn. We have to keep 80% of their fossil fuels underground to keep the earth in livable shape!

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For more information and statistics:


US campaign stimulating response from Harvard Political Review

28 Jul

“Divestment from select fossil fuel producers would send a powerful message to the energy industry and the nation. It would signal that America’s universities take the climate-energy challenge seriously … Adopting an investment strategy that encourages the development of renewable energy and lower-carbon fossil fuels could be an important piece of our university’s response to the coming energy challenge.”

Harvard Political Review on the Fossil Fuel Campaign “Divest for Our Future”

Responsible investment: The financial case

23 Jul

One of the common arguments made against responsible, or ethical, investment is that it is not affordable, or that the priority for the university’s endowment should be creating the greatest possible financial return.

We believe the university’s endowment should be invested in line with the shared goals of the entire university: to promote the public good through encouraging innovation and increasing and widening knowledge. We also believe that this is compatible with the university making a good and consistent financial return.

In fact, we think the case is stronger than this – evidence suggests that ethical investments are also good financial investments in the long term. A UN review of 20 academic studies into the relationship between ESG factors (Environmental, Social and corporate Governance, non-financial indicators which can be used to assess company behaviour) and portfolio performance has shown a positive correlation – in other words, that on balance more ethical funds do better.

The Responsible Investment campaign is calling on the University of Edinburgh to do a number of things to invest more ethically, including to divest from arms and fossil fuels. The moral reasons why the university must divest from these are explained on this page – but there is also increasing evidence that continuing to invest in fossil fuels is a serious financial risk.

With strong scientific evidence that avoiding runaway climate change will involve leaving most proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, this means that the stock market valuations of fossil fuel companies are overvalued, as their valuations are based upon the amount of reserves they hold. Action in the future, governmental or otherwise, to counter the threat of climate change will make these reserves unuseable, and unsaleable – with financial consequences for these companies, and for investors. Some are even suggesting that this $4 trillion plus ‘carbon bubble’ will cause another financial crisis.

By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, the University of Edinburgh not only helps fund their continued extraction and exploitation, with disastrous consequences for the climate, but is also in effect betting on insufficient action being taken to tackle climate change.

Moreover, with evidence that climate change will have economic consequences in addition to its social and environmental ones, unmitigated climate change is likely to harm other investments the university holds as well.

The University of Edinburgh, a 420-year old institution, should be taking a long term view – and not risking its finances, its ethics, and the environment by continuing to invest in fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel web of power – the links between UK government ministers and companies fueling climate change | World Development Movement

19 Jul

The World Development movement have highlighted the links between financial institutions, fossil fuel companies, and ministers in the UK government. So no we now what David Cameron means when he says “We’re all in this together”.

Fossil fuel web of power – the links between UK government ministers and companies fueling climate change | World Development Movement.