Divest From Financially Risky, Climate-Wrecking Fossil Fuels

BY ON December 3, 2013

Globe covered with oil derricks

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the DC City Council met to hear testimony about the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act of 2013. I spoke at the hearing, explaining why moms do not want DC bankrolling air pollution and climate change. More than twenty American cities have made commitments to divest from fossil fuels, moving capital away from companies that profit from fossil fuel exploration, extraction, and production. More cities are bound to follow. DCDivest is one of dozens of grassroots campaigns working to shift municipal investments in cities across the country away from climate-wrecking fossil fuels.

Here is what I told the DC City Council last week:

Why am I here? I am not an expert in pension management, but I know a lot about climate change, and about the moms who are going to make sure that we deal with this problem. That has important implications for fossil fuel investments.

Moms know that climate change poses a grave threat to our children. It increases floods, drought, extreme heat, and agricultural disruption. In a warming world, our children will face more heat-related illnesses; increased transmission of infectious diseases; a lifetime of more heart attacks, asthma, and cancer from the air pollution that will be exacerbated by climate change; massive migration and threats to global security; and more malnutrition from an unstable global food system and crop failures.

This is not the world we want to leave our children. We have to do better. And we will do better. You see, moms are going to solve this problem. We have to. Our children’s future depends on it. We are going to figure out how to turn this ship around. And when we do, do you know what’s going to happen?

The companies that are now profiting off wrecking our climate will be at a serious financial disadvantage. Investing in fossil fuel companies is not only morally questionable, it’s financially risky. As former SEC Commissioner Bevis Longstreth wrote recently in Huffington Post: “The future prospects for fossil fuel companies are suffering, and in coming years, increasingly, will suffer from at least four rapidly evolving developments triggered by growing global awareness of the existential threat that climate change poses for the planet.” Longstreth explains that those rapidly evolving developments are government policies that will restrict carbon emissions; advances in alternative energy sources; a rising tide of public action at the grass-roots level against fossil fuel companies; and deteriorating reputations of these companies that will turn them into pariahs in the public mind. And because of all this, their value will decline.

Capital sitting on fossil fuel reserves to be burned in some far-off future will become stranded, worthless, empty. As more and more parents understand that we are on course to leave our children a planet far less hospitable than the one we have enjoyed, the more forcefully we demand action. And don’t underestimate the power of thousands upon thousands of angry moms. Precisely because these fossil fuel companies threaten our children’s health and future, they are risky investments. DC therefore has not only a moral but also a financial obligation to divest from these climate-wrecking companies.


TOPICS: Economics