Hear from our signatories on why they support fossil fuel divestment…

Mark Twain famously said “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Today we argue that divestment is not only right, it is vital to support the policies urgently needed to prevent potentially catastrophic climate change.  

The fossil fuel industry has already found enough coal, oil, and gas to warm the world 9 °C — not once, but more than three times over. They actively seek to find and produce even more. [They] have and continue to fund deniers, undermine the science, confuse the public and delay action — actions antithetical to the values of MIT.  The integrity of the Institute is at stake. We cannot say we care about climate change, yet invest in an industry that threatens our prosperity, our health, and our lives.

We call on the Institute to, as Twain said, “do right”.  Divestment is not only right, it is powerful. By divesting we will not only astonish, we will walk our talk.  We will energize the growing movement to cut emissions on campus and around the world.  We will blaze a path to a future in which all people can thrive, thus fulfilling the mission of MIT, which calls upon us “to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.”

(Excerpt from the MIT divestment debate – watch the full recording here.)

John Sterman

Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management, Sloan School of Management

MIT should not profit from investments in fossil fuels, especially coal. As a supporter of Fossil Free MIT, I recommend that the Institute divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in renewable energy.

I agree with those who argue that divestment is not a complete solution, but it would be an important step.

Ian Condry

Professor of Japanese Culture & Media Studies, Global Studies & Languages

Divestment is one of the bigger steps we can make to transition to the 21st-century energy system marked by sustainability, consumer choice, and price transparency.

Arne Hessenbruch

Lecturer, Dept. of Materials Science & Engineering

Signing this petition wasn’t an obvious choice for me, since I’m sensitive to the charge that divestment petitions are just meaningless sanctimony, a way for activists to feel morally pure without either making serious sacrifices or engaging the real complexities of an issue. In the end, though, that kind of meta-level judgment can’t absolve us of the need to consider each petition on its merits: if we think of a previous crisis for civilization (say, in the late 1930s), then it seems obvious that even symbolic divestment gestures were better than nothing. What made up my mind was reading the arguments pro and con, and seeing that the organizers of this petition had such a clear-eyed understanding of what they were trying to accomplish and why: they know that divestment can’t directly drive down oil companies’ stock prices, but it can powerfully signal to the world a scientific consensus that, if global catastrophe is to be averted, most of the known fossil-fuel reserves need to be left in the ground, and that current valuations of oil, gas, and coal companies fail to reflect that reality.

Scott Aaronson

Associate Professor, Dept. of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

I stand with my students in this principled position. They are the future.

Wyn Kelley

Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Literature

Personally, I think divestment is a very good idea. We can accept the counterarguments as accurate. But the problem is, they are irrelevant.

Noam Chomsky

Institute Professor (retired), Dept. of Linguistics & Philosophy

According to MIT’s Mission Statement: “The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges.” We know the science of climate change, but many Americans are confused, if not badly misled.

What better way to educate the public, let alone our own students, about the effects of carbon emissions than to follow through on the clear implications of our own research on our own investments?

(Read his full opinion piece in the MIT Faculty Newsletter here.)

Charles F. Harvey

Singapore Professor of Environmental Science, Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering

I think part of the reason I was motivated to sign the divestment petition is because right now we seem to be dysfunctional in Washington DC, and we’re not seeing any motion. We’re denying climate [change]; almost every other country in the world seems to be paying more attention to it and taking some action, and we are not. So, we have to do something…

It is becoming increasingly urgent that we start our transition away from fossil fuels. This divestment initiative would be a strong statement that MIT has started down this path.

Timothy G. Gutowski

Professor, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering

Let’s suppose that MIT started off with no investments in fossil fuels. Would we then say that we should put a percentage of our endowment into fossil fuels? In concrete terms this means providing capital to companies to build new pipelines, new refineries, new oil wells, etc., and to upgrade/maintain the existing ones, with the hope that the profits will pay dividends and that the companies will grow so that the shares increase in value.

If we started off without these investments, then we would say that choosing to make them would be immoral and reckless, and that even if they made money in the short term, their ultimate cost to humanity would be greater in the long term.

So on top of the many great reasons to divest, let me add “rejecting status quo bias” to the mix.

Aram Harrow

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Physics

As a leading institution in the study of science and engineering, MIT should be setting an example for the rest of society based on solid research findings. To not divest is tantamount to disregarding our own research scientists.

Ellen W. Crocker

Senior Lecturer, Global Studies & Languages

Do the math. Divest. Disrupt. Confront.

Do everything else as well.

Why do I care about climate change? I have a daughter. So do you.

Jane Abbott Connor

Lecturer II, Comparative Media Studies/Writing

We have probably run out of time to contain the damage from climate change.  The situation is becoming ever worse. We know that unless pressure is put on the powerful interests impeding change, the disasters that are coming will arrive that much sooner and with that much less preparation.

Susan S. Silbey

Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, Sociology & Anthropology, Anthropology Program; Sloan School of Management

No one should be supporting this pernicious industry. MIT’s significance should be weighted against fossil fuels. It is the morally correct stance.

Ruth Perry

Ann Fetter Friedlaender Professor of Humanities, Literature; SHASS

It is the right thing to do in view of the scientific evidences.

Gigliola Staffilani

Professor, Dept. of Mathematics

We seek through technology to make room in human life for more than a constant search for food and shelter: to make room for love, for art, even for science…

For that quest to be meaningful, it must be a quest in which our children and grandchildren can join. Our use of fossil fuels no longer passes that test; we need to change direction drastically and immediately.

David Vogan

Norbert Wiener Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics

While engaging with fossil fuel companies may yield some benefits in terms of climate change, the symbolic value of MIT divesting far outweighs any possible benefits that could be obtained by engaging with the fossil fuel companies.

Peter Shor

Henry Adams Morss and Henry Adams Morss, Jr. Professor of Applied Math, Dept. of Mathematics

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