ND: Divest and say no to fossil fuels
Letter to the Editor | Friday, November 21, 2014
We, the members of the Center for Social Concerns Seminar on Energy, Climate and Social Change, ask Notre Dame to assess its role in the increasingly critical issue of climate change.
Following weeks of studying this multifaceted and far-reaching subject from a variety of angles, our seminar culminated in a trip to our nation’s capital, where we discussed climate change with experts in policy, politics, activism and industry. After sincere analysis of the issue, we would like to suggest a tangible step for our University: divestment from fossil fuels.
Divestment constitutes a removal of an organization’s funds from specific corporations or groups as a political statement. Today, environmental advocates across the nation are calling for divestment from fossil fuel industries. Notre Dame’s endowment is currently invested in a diverse portfolio of industry sectors that have brought successive years of large growth. Opponents of divestment cite its potential financial cost to the University, but our proposal comprises relocating funds invested in fossil fuels to other relatively high-yielding resources to ensure continued endowment growth.
In recent months, Stanford and the University of Dayton — another Midwestern Catholic institution — announced they would join a growing number of universities, cities and foundations across the world in the divestment movement. We call for Notre Dame to join this movement and declare a firm moral opposition to energy practices not in keeping with Catholic social tradition.
Furthermore, divestment may help change social perception of an industry that holds a near monopoly on energy, neglecting social and environmental responsibility. With established infrastructure and cheaper prices due to unaccounted external costs, like the health impact of pollution, fossil fuels will continue to dominate the market without a movement demonstrating strong resistance to their harmful effects.
Climate change is a deeply moral issue, one closely aligned with our University’s mission to seek justice and dignity for all. The oft-unconsidered societal costs of carbon emissions and pollution threaten public health and the future of our economy. The global carbon concentration has reached approximately 400 parts per million, substantially surpassing 350 parts per million, the maximum level recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to avoid severe changes in weather patterns. Moreover, extraction and processing of fossil fuels induce adverse health effects such as asthma, to which children are particularly susceptible. These effects disproportionately impact poor and minority communities who lack the financial means to flee pollution or to adapt to climate change.
As a University with a tradition of standing for social justice, Notre Dame must exercise strong leadership for other institutions around the world to establish just policy on climate issues. By articulating a clarion call for action against practices that threaten basic human dignity, we as a university can continue to uphold the values upon which we were founded.
Welsh Family Hall
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.