Blowing Hot Air on the Wrong Target? A Critique of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement in Higher Education

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Title: Blowing Hot Air on the Wrong Target? A Critique of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement in Higher Education

Author: Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu

Publisher: Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Date: July 2016

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Summary:

By 2015, students and faculty at more than 1,000 college and university campuses across the world (including nearly 30 in Canada) had pressured academic trustees and administrators to divest their institutions’ endowment holdings in publicly held fossil fuel companies (i.e., to sell or part way with stocks and other funds invested in corporations engaged in the extraction of coal, crude oil, bitumen (oil sands) and natural gas). Invoking computer-generated catastrophic climate change scenarios, they insist that most economically recoverable carbon fuel reserves be left in the ground. The divestment activists’ rhetoric and policy prescriptions, however, are morally questionable because they imply no sacrifices on the part of consumers and will hurt primarily poor people, futile because achieving their goals will have no impact on the value of corporate stocks and the production of carbon fuels, and misguided because drastically curtailing their use in the absence of better alternatives will harm both human society and the environment.

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