When elected officials fail to serve our interests, the public must rise up and construct alternative channels for creating the change politicians refuse to legislate. In his first 100-day plan, reports NPR, President Trump promised to lift restrictions on “$50 trillion” worth of fossil fuel reserves and reverse our process toward combating climate change.
Since we can’t rely on our government to address this problem by curtailing carbon emissions, we need to take matters into our own hands and slow the fossil fuel industry down via divestment, thereby revoking the social license for energy companies to continue disruption of our planet’s climate and the related destabilization of society. For the past three years, students in Divest JMU have been calling on JMU to withdraw its investments in companies that are fueling this massive international crisis. Through these investments, JMU is profiting on irreversible damage to our climate, with dire costs to human health and security.
Without the construction of a single new extraction project around the world, burning through the fossil fuel industry’s existing reserves without drastic restrictions would risk causing irrevocable damage by surpassing the 2 degrees Celsius “guardrail” established at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that after only a 0.8 degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures, we already see climate change impacts in the form of increasingly intense natural disasters, melting glaciers, ocean acidification, increasing conflicts over food insecurity, the spreading tropical disease, water shortages and more. Under a business-as-usual model for carbon emissions (without increased governmental regulation), the IPCC projects global temperatures to rise between 3.7-4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. Through investments in fossil fuel energy companies, JMU effectively supports this industry’s continued expansion as companies research new methods of extraction when existing reserves contain more carbon than our planet can afford to have emitted into its atmosphere.
Fortunately, the university is considering our call: On Feb. 10, JMU’s endowment managers have invited us to present our proposal as they review the financial implications of divestment in anticipation of a vote. We fully expect JMU to vote in favor of divestment and adopt a more responsible investment strategy.
While Divest JMU presenters stand before the board of trustees on Friday, some of the JMU community will stand in support outside the boardroom in a silent solidarity action. Please come take action with us this Friday at 11:15 a.m. outside Festival Ballroom. If you can’t come, like “Divest JMU” on Facebook for campaign updates.
Rosie Lynch (’16) is a research assistant in the department of integrated science and technology.