2015.07.09 – FFMIT’s Statement in Response to the MIT Climate Change Conversation Report

As highlighted in the recent Report of the MIT Climate Change Conversation Committee, MIT and the Climate Challenge, climate change presents the most difficult challenge to human civilization. Such a challenge offers MIT a unique opportunity to define its legacy in the 21st century. Fossil Free MIT embraces this opportunity and thus welcomes and endorses every action recommended in the Report, as following these recommendations will allow the Institute to lead by example and fulfill its mission to work “for the betterment of humankind”.

In particular, we wholeheartedly endorse the recommendation by a three-quarter majority of the committee for MIT to immediately divest from “companies whose operations are heavily focused on the exploration for and/or extraction of the fossil fuels that are least compatible with mitigating climate change, for example, coal and tar sands.” We also applaud the Committee’s recommendation of a permanent Ethics Advisory Council to address the serious ethical concern presented by MIT’s involvement with companies that have engaged in the spread of disinformation about climate change. These actions, taken with the full weight of MIT’s institutional endorsement, would align MIT’s operations with the science behind climate change mitigation and help build social and political willpower for stronger climate action.

Yet the urgency and magnitude of the climate change threat presents both an opportunity and an obligation for more ambitious action—in particular, for more comprehensive divestment from the fossil fuel industry, including oil and gas companies. The excessive influence that the oil and gas industry extends over our political system, alongside the fact that significant amounts of the world’s oil and gas reserves must remain unburned to avoid surpassing 2 ºC of warming, compels MIT to take further action through broader divestment. The MIT community has spoken in favor of broader divestment through over 3400 petition signatures, open letters from faculty members and student groups, as well as overwhelming support for divestment demonstrated through the Conversation’s Idea Bank, recordings of the Listening Tour, and the over 500 MIT community members who attended the Divestment Debate. Both community support and the reasoning for divestment outlined in the Report compel MIT to pursue broader fossil fuel divestment as part of its Climate Action Plan.

The intensity and quality of the dialogue over the past year at MIT regarding a Climate Action Plan has generated a diverse and effective set of solutions. Now, the urgency of climate change requires us to follow through by acting boldly and without delay. We strongly encourage the MIT administration to promptly implement the Report’s recommendations and to make strong leadership on climate change a defining element of MIT’s legacy. Fossil Free MIT looks forward to implementing the ideas of the Conversation with the MIT administration, faculty, staff, students, and alumni.