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Press Releases

Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 4, 2016 Contact: Geoffrey Supran, (+1) 617-899-8482, gjsupran@mit.edu

MIT students outside president’s office begin second semester – and Day 59 - of longest ever sit-in for fossil fuel divestment

Cambridge, MA — Today at 6am, the first day of MIT’s spring semester, students and faculty resumed the #ScientistsSitIn at the office doorstep of MIT’s president, urging the Institute to divest its $13.5 billion endowment from fossil fuel companies. The sit-in began on October 22, 2015 in response to MIT’s decision to “not divest from the fossil fuel industry,” including climate-denying corporations, and instead to “bring them closer.” For the next 58 days, students, staff, faculty, and alumni sat round-the-clock, including through Thanksgiving and final exams week, until the end of the fall semester. After a two week winter holiday respite with family and friends, the students today returned to MIT’s corridor of power, more determined than ever.

“We’re back!” one poster read, brandished by a student sitting-in. PhD candidate Geoffrey Supran reflected: “Back home in England this Christmas, we’ve had yet more relentless record floods. Meanwhile, the North Pole was hotter than Southern California, and flowers were blooming in Boston and New York. It’s a shocking reminder of what’s at stake for my generation’s future. It’s why we’re sitting-in for the third month now. And it’s why we’re not going anywhere until MIT stands on the right side of climate change history.”

The student sit-in, endorsed by 93 MIT faculty, calls on MIT to divest from coal and tar sands companies, to establish an ethics advisory council to address investments in climate-denying corporations, and to commit to campus carbon neutrality by 2040 at the latest. The Institute’s own climate change advisory committee itself recently backed divestment from coal and tar sands by 9 votes to 3 and unanimously recommended the ethics council. Calls for divestment include 3,500 petition signatures from MIT community members and separate open letters from 29 MIT student groups, 124 faculty, alumni, and 33 prominent climate scientists and advocates, among them James Hansen, the President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Mark Ruffalo, and Noam Chomsky. Climate simulations conducted by researchers at Climate Interactive show that MIT’s recently announced emissions reduction pledge is incompatible with the 2 degree Celsius threshold for dangerous warming committed to by 195 countries at the UN climate negotiations in Paris last month.

Negotiations are ongoing between the student group leading the sit-in, Fossil Free MIT, and senior administrators.

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Additional information and photographs from the sit-in and vigil can be found at www.MITsitin.org and on social media under the hashtag #ScientistsSitIn. This press release is also accessible at www.fossilfreemit.org/pressreleases/.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 24, 2015 Contact: Geoffrey Supran, (+1) 617-899-8482, gjsupran@mit.edu

Bernie Sanders responds to ExxonMobil climate cover-up question from MIT students in second month of round-the-clock sit-in

Cambridge, MA — Today Bernie Sanders replied to a question from MIT students asking how each of the U.S. presidential candidates will “respond to Exxon’s climate lies.” The undergraduate and graduate students posed the question from the office doorstep of MIT’s president, where they have now been sitting-in continuously for 33 days and nights in response to MIT’s decision to “not divest [its $13.5 billion endowment] from the fossil fuel industry”, including climate-denying corporations, and instead to “bring them closer.” The sit-in is now believed to be the longest ever for fossil fuel divestment.

“It has emerged ExxonMobil studied and understood the threats of climate change decades ago,” MIT PhD candidate Josué Lopez explains in the video submission to the MoveOn 2016 Presidential Forum, referring to recent revelations reported by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times. “But rather than warning the world, [Exxon] used that knowledge for its own profit, and then publicly attacked the science and obstructed political action. To all the candidates, how will you respond to Exxon’s climate lies?”

“Thank you for what you’re doing…This is a real crisis situation,” Sanders responds. He continues to describe how he “wrote a letter a month or so ago to the Attorney General of the United States to say ‘take a hard look’…if those allegations are true, ExxonMobil is breaking the law and the Attorney General has got to come in and proceed with prosecution.”

The student sit-in, recently endorsed by 93 MIT faculty, calls on MIT to establish an ethics advisory council to address investments in climate-denying corporations; an action unanimously recommended by the Institute’s own climate change advisory committee earlier this year, but omitted from MIT’s subsequently announced climate action plan last month.

The student group leading the sit-in, Fossil Free MIT, recently observed: “Our administration claims it is ‘not naïve about the pernicious role of some segments of the fossil fuel industry in creating the current policy deadlock,’ yet responds ‘by bringing them closer to us.’ This inside-politics approach seems oblivious to the overwhelming evidence that the bottleneck to effective climate mitigation is no longer technological capability or policy know-how, but political will.”

The sit-in also calls on MIT to divest from coal and tar sands companies and to commit to campus carbon neutrality by 2040 at the latest. The Institute committee’s 9-to-3 vote in favor of targeted divestment was also rejected by the MIT administration. Calls for divestment have included 3,500-plus petition signatures from MIT community members and separate open letters from 29 MIT student groups, 123 faculty, alumni, and 33 prominent climate scientists and advocates, among them James Hansen, the President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Mark Ruffalo, and Noam Chomsky. Climate simulations conducted by researchers at Climate Interactive also show that MIT’s recently announced emissions reduction pledge is incompatible with the globally-recognized 2 degree Celsius threshold for dangerous warming.

Yesterday almost 100 MIT students, staff, faculty, alumni, and local community members held a moving vigil in MIT’s Memorial Lobby to observe the final days that any humans alive today will likely ever again see atmospheric carbon dioxide levels less than 400 parts per million (ppm). 350 ppm of CO2 is regarded by many scientists as the safe upper limit to avoid dangerous climate change. Combining live music, poetry recitals, speeches, and community artwork, the “Farewell 400” vigil called on MIT administrators and world leaders to take bolder climate action. The vigil came just days before world leaders gather in Paris for pivotal UN climate negotiations.

“As president, I will work with China, and India, and Russia to see a situation where this entire planet transforms its energy ways,” Sanders concludes.

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Additional information and photographs from the sit-in and vigil can be found at www.MITsitin.org and on social media under the hashtag #ScientistsSitIn. This press release is also accessible at www.fossilfreemit.org/pressreleases/.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 23, 2015 Contact: Geoffrey Supran, (+1) 617-899-8482, gjsupran@mit.edu

MIT community holds vigil for passing of climate change milestone and marks start of second month of 24/7 sit-in outside president’s office for MIT climate action — the longest ever sit-in for fossil fuel divestment

Cambridge, MA — Today, almost 100 MIT students, staff, faculty, alumni, and local community members held a moving vigil in MIT’s Memorial Lobby to observe the final days that any humans alive today will likely ever again see atmospheric carbon dioxide levels less than 400 parts per million (ppm). 350 ppm of CO2 is regarded by many scientists as the safe upper limit to avoid dangerous climate change. Combining live music, poetry recitals, speeches, and community artwork, the “Farewell 400” vigil called on MIT administrators and world leaders to take bolder climate action. The vigil came just days before world leaders gather in Paris for pivotal UN climate negotiations.

MIT graduate student and Fossil Free MIT member Geoffrey Supran remarked to the audience, “We organised today’s vigil because the Tuesday before last – Veteran’s Day – without any fanfare or news coverage, carbon dioxide levels silently crept above 400ppm, Earth’s highest level in over 3 million years.”

The vigil coincided with Day 33 of a round-the-clock sit-in at the office doorstep of MIT’s president in response to MIT’s decision to “not divest [its $13.5 billion endowment] from the fossil fuel industry”, including climate-denying corporations, and instead to “bring them closer.” The sit-in is now believed to be the longest ever for fossil fuel divestment.

“…last month the MIT administration published a plan for climate action that doesn’t add up,” Ben Scandella, another graduate student and Fossil Free MIT organiser observed. “It doesn’t nearly live up to the challenge of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, and it doesn’t show the leadership required if MIT wants to maintain its reputation. So, less than 24 hours after that plan was announced, we began sitting peacefully outside President Reif’s office to remind the administration that nothing less than our our futures are on the line, and that we’re not standing up until MIT stands with us.”

The event began with a stirring performance of Canto Della Terra (Song of the Earth) by accomplished MIT musicians Giovanni Azzellino (piano, MIT postdoc), Divya Pillai (singer, MIT undergraduate), and David Rolnick (singer, MIT graduate student). MIT Associate Professor of Literature Marah Gubar recited two moving poems, The Question by Theo Dorgan and The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry. The Question ends by asking, “What have you done with the blue, beautiful world?” Gubar is one of 93 faculty who recently called out the shortcomings of MIT’s climate plan and endorsed the student sit-in.

MIT alumnus and local climate activist Quinton Zondervan then buoyed the audience’s spirits by speaking about the importance of people power in achieving climate action. MIT Professor of Philosophy Kieran Setiya, who is another signatory of the faculty letter, read an excerpt from The Cure of Troy by Seamus Heaney: “Once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.”

The evening ended with Leonardo Banchik (guitar and vocals, MIT graduate student), Curtis Newton (cajon percussion and vocals, MIT staff), and Ben Scandella (vocals) leading the whole crowd in an MIT-tailored performance of The Tide is Rising, whose lyrics included, “The tide is rising, and so are we / The tide is rising, at MIT / This is where we were born to be / This is why we are MIT.”

MIT postdoctoral researcher Eirik Jarl Trondsen then unveiled a piece of community art with the word “MITigate”, which the audience contributed to coloring in, and which will continue to be displayed at the sit-in.

The student sit-in, recently endorsed by 93 MIT faculty, calls on MIT to divest from coal and tar sands companies, to establish an ethics advisory council to address investments in climate-denying corporations, and to commit to campus carbon neutrality by 2040 at the latest. The Institute’s own climate change advisory committee itself recently backed targeted divestment by 9 votes to 3 and unanimously recommended the ethics council. Calls for divestment include 3,500 petition signatures from MIT community members and separate open letters from 29 MIT student groups, 123 faculty, alumni, and 33 prominent climate scientists and advocates, among them James Hansen, the President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Mark Ruffalo, and Noam Chomsky. Climate simulations conducted by researchers at Climate Interactive show that MIT’s recently announced emissions reduction pledge is incompatible with the globally-recognized 2 degree Celsius threshold for dangerous warming.

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Additional information and photos/videos will be posted at www.MITsitin.org and on social media under the hashtag #ScientistsSitIn.

PHOTOGRAPHS BELOW

Photo credit: Ploy Achakulwisut

Photo credit: Ploy Achakulwisut

Photo credit: Ploy Achakulwisut

Photo credit: Ploy Achakulwisut

Photo credit: Ploy Achakulwisut (audience contributes to community artwork reading “MITIgate”

Photo credit: Ploy Achakulwisut (audience contributes to community artwork reading “MITIgate”

Photo credit: Ploy Achakulwisut

Photo credit: Ploy Achakulwisut

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 22, 2015 Contact: Geoffrey Supran, (+1) 617-899-8482, gjsupran@mit.edu

MIT students sit-in at President’s office in protest against MIT’s decision to not divest from fossil fuels, ignoring calls from thousands of MIT members and president’s own committee

Cambridge, MA — Today at 6.30AM EDT, a dozen students began a sit-in at the doorstep of their president’s office in opposition to MIT’s announced decision yesterday to “not divest [its $13.5 billion endowment] from the fossil fuel industry”, including climate denying corporations, and instead “bring them closer”. It is the first time in a quarter century that MIT has seen such unrest.

MIT’s divestment campaigners are particularly furious that their president has chosen not to sell stocks from coal and tar sands companies, an action backed 9-to-3 by the president’s own advisory committee in June.

“Divestment from coal and tar sands is a no-brainer, and would have unified rather than ostracized MIT’s community” commented Geoffrey Supran, an MIT PhD student sitting-in, and a member of President Reif’s climate advisory committee and of the student group advocating divestment, Fossil Free MIT. “With $2.6 trillion of precedent—including at Stanford, Oxford, and UC—divestment from coal and tar sands is financially prudent, scientifically consistent, morally right, and politically effective.”

President Reif’s decision to also not address climate science disinformation is another reason why many are protesting. Just this week, congressmen such as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have called for a federal investigation of ExxonMobil’s decades of climate lies. Meanwhile, MIT’s plan “deplores” climate science disinformation, yet proposes nothing to deal with it, entirely ignoring the unanimous recommendation of the president’s committee for an Ethics Advisory Council to “explicitly combat disinformation and avoid inadvertently supporting disinformation through investments.” In fact, the plan argues that MIT ought to strengthen its relationship of “great respect”, “candor and collaboration” with fossil fuel companies (even including coal companies), described as “the same” as that between MIT’s administrators and its students.

“We’re sitting-in because MIT has put money before morals and its students’ futures, choosing to side with Big Oil and the Kochs instead of the thousands of students, staff, faculty, and alumni—not to mention our president’s own committee—calling for divestment,” added Supran.

President Reif’s decision comes during a $5.5 billion capital campaign—the largest in the Institute’s history. MIT receives more industry funding than almost any other university in the country, its research sponsors including ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Eni, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Statoil, Total, and the American Petroleum Institute and its 600-plus members. Climate disinformation bankroller David Koch has given MIT $185 million and is a Life Member of MIT’s Board of Trustees. Last November, MIT signed a five-year $25 million deal with ExxonMobil, which has in recent days cited its affiliation with MIT in an effort to greenwash its history of denialist campaigns.

Jeremy Poindexter, an MIT PhD student working on solar cells explained why he is among those camped outside President Reif’s office: “We won’t stand idly by while divestment gets tossed aside despite support from thousands of MIT community members. It’s ironic that in a climate action plan inspired entirely by divestment, our administration claims that engagement with the fossil fuel industry is a better action. In reality, divestment has a proven theory of change toward limiting warming to 2 degrees C. What’s President Reif’s? What have MIT’s decades of inside-access to fossil fuel interests gotten us? The answer is an industry that has lied about climate science, pours hundreds of millions of dollars every year into lobbying against renewables, and spends hundreds of billions of dollars pursuing a business model scientifically incompatible with holding back catastrophic climate change. And yet MIT has decided to continue investing more than half-a-billion dollars in this industry undermining our own work.”

On the action plan’s other proposals, Supran commented, “This plan is business-as-usual repackaged. It’s a campus emissions target consistent with an unacceptable 3.5 degrees of global warming. It’s MIT’s ordinary fundraising for energy research, wrapped up in a “$300 million” soundbite. It’s too little, too late.”

MIT’s divestment decision, part of its Plan for Action on Climate Change, flies in the face of over 3,500 petition signatures from MIT community members, the recommendations of the MIT president’s own committee to divest from coal, tar sands, and climate denying corporations, a resolution from Cambridge City Council, and separate open letters from MIT student groups, faculty, alumni, and 33 prominent climate scientists and advocates, among them James Hansen, the President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Noam Chomsky, and Mark Ruffalo.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 21, 2015 Contact: Geoffrey Supran, (+1) 617-899-8482, gjsupran@mit.edu

MIT ignores calls from thousands of community members & president’s own committee, decides not to divest from fossil fuels or climate denying corporations, instead to “bring them closer”

Cambridge, MA — Today, as part of a Plan for Action on Climate Change, MIT announced its decision to “not divest from the fossil fuel industry”, including climate denying corporations, instead opting to “bring them closer.” The decision flies in the face of over 3,500 petition signatures from MIT community members, the recommendations of the MIT president’s own committee to divest from coal, tar sands, and climate denying corporations, a resolution from Cambridge City Council, and separate open letters from MIT student groups, faculty, alumni, and 33 prominent climate scientists and advocates, among them James Hansen, the President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Noam Chomsky, and Mark Ruffalo.

“MIT has put money before morals and its students’ futures today, choosing to side with Big Oil and the Kochs instead of the thousands of students, staff, faculty, and alumni—not to mention our president’s own committee—calling for divestment,” commented Geoffrey Supran, an MIT PhD student, member of President Reif’s climate advisory committee, and member of the student group advocating divestment, Fossil Free MIT.

President Reif’s decision to maintain a relationship of “great respect”, “candor and collaboration” with fossil fuel companies, “the same” as that between MIT’s administrators and its students, has appalled many. This decision comes the same week that congressmen, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have called for a federal investigation of ExxonMobil’s decades of climate lies. But while MIT’s plan “deplores” climate science disinformation, it proposes nothing to deal with it, instead issuing a blanket argument that MIT ought to strengthen its ties to the fossil fuel industry, including coal companies.

350.org founder Bill McKibben said it is “Sad to see MIT cave before the power of the Kochs—but then, they’re the richest guys on earth, and clearly strong enough to override the considered recommendations of mere students and faculty.”

Climate disinformation bankroller David Koch has previously given MIT $185 million and is a Life Member of MIT’s Board of Trustees. President Reif’s decision also comes during a $5.5 billion capital campaign—the largest in the Institute’s history. MIT receives more industry funding than almost any other university in the country. Sponsors of MIT energy research include ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Eni, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Statoil, Total, and the American Petroleum Institute and its 600-plus members.

MIT’s divestment campaigners are particularly furious that their president has chosen not to sell stocks from coal and tar sands companies, an action backed 9-to-3 by the president’s own advisory committee in June.

“Targeted divestment from coal and tar sands is a no-brainer,” commented Supran. “With $2.6 trillion of precedent—including at Stanford, Oxford, and UC—divestment from coal and tar sands is financially prudent, scientifically consistent, morally right, and politically effective. We students won’t stand idly by while divestment gets tossed aside on account of naive arguments that fail to understand the political complexities of the climate challenge, and a climate action plan that continues to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a business practice scientifically incompatible with holding back catastrophic global warming.”

Bill McKibben noted that “It’s an especially poignant decision in these weeks when the proof has emerged that these companies have been lying for decades about climate change. My predictions are that the planet will keep warming, and that a valiant MIT community will keep fighting to make the university’s endowment true to its scientific mission.”

On the action plan’s other proposals, Supran commented, “Divestment has finally, finally put climate action front and center at MIT and I am thankful to see the first small steps towards action in this announcement. But this plan is business-as-usual repackaged. It’s too little, too late.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 2, 2015 Contact: Geoffrey Supran, (+1) 617-899-8482, gjsupran@mit.edu

Over 100 MIT nerds-turned-activists rally and march for fossil fuel divestment and climate action as MIT Board of Trustees – including David Koch – meets on campus

Cambridge, MA — Today, more than 100 MIT students, staff, faculty, alumni, and local community members rallied in the heart of campus in support of an MIT climate action plan, including divestment of the Institute’s $13.5 billion endowment from fossil fuel companies and climate-denying corporations. The activists then marched across campus, where, across from the building in which MIT’s Board of Trustees – among them David Koch – convened for their annual meeting, they dropped a banner reading “Stand with Science. Take Climate Action”.

The rally follows recommendations by the MIT President’s own committee to divest from coal, tar sands, and climate-denying corporations, and comes on the eve of the President’s promised decision on how the Institute will act against climate change.

Speaking at the rally, MIT PhD student and divestment advocate Geoffrey Supran highlighted MIT’s closing window of opportunity: “MIT’s moment of decision is now. Right now, a few blocks from here, our President and our Board gather. And as they meet, we gather here united behind bold multi-faceted MIT climate action. We gather here united to call on our president to divest from fossil fuels, to reinvest in sustainability, and to reinvent MIT’s approach to climate action, research and education.”

“Scientist for climate action”, “Divest for our future”, and “MIT for climate justice” were just three of the messages brandished on signs carried by marchers. In full view of the building where MIT’s Board was meeting, a banner was dropped from a student dorm just as marchers congregated, cheering at the top of their lungs in the hope that their leaders would hear their calls for action.

But with MIT more dependent on industry funding than almost any other university in the country, student organizers say “the climate question is far from a done deal.”

Wielding a sign reading “MIT Faculty for Climate Action”, MIT Professor Ian Condry said at the rally, “My concern is that when the announcement happens, it won’t be enough, and that it will be the beginning of the next stage of our fight, not the end.” Yet, he encouraged, “If we can build our social network…and build the movement from below, then eventually it becomes impossible to ignore.”

The rally is the closing action of a week-long series of events called MIT Climate Countdown, organized by student activists. These events brought together dozens of climate and sustainability focused student groups on campus, but also alumni, faculty and staff working in these areas.

Two weeks ago, climatologist James Hansen, actor Mark Ruffalo, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund President Stephen Heintz were among 33 prominent signatories to an open letter urging MIT divestment. This followed 3,400 MIT petition signers, open letters from 89 MIT faculty members and 29 student groups, and a resolution of Cambridge City Council.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 15, 2015 Contact: Geoffrey Supran, (+1) 617-899-8482, gjsupran@mit.edu Download Press Release Here

World-renowned climate scientists and advocates join calls for MIT to heed its own committee’s advice to divest from fossil fuels in open letter

Cambridge, MA — Climatologist James Hansen, actor Mark Ruffalo, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund President Stephen Heintz are among 33 prominent signatories urging “the world’s foremost citadel of science” to drop fossil fuel company stocks from its $12.4 billion endowment. The open letter follows recommendations by the MIT President’s own Climate Change Conversation committee to divest from coal, tar sands, and potentially from climate-denying corporations.

“Divestment is not only financially prudent but also politically effective, scientifically consistent, and morally right,” says the letter, whose signatories include 350.org founder Bill McKibben, author and climate advisor to the Pope Naomi Klein, science broadcaster David Suzuki, Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow MIT Professor Junot Díaz, Nobel Laureate and former MIT psychiatrist Eric Chivian, and Zipcar founder and MIT alumna Robin Chase.

The letter comes on the eve of MIT President Reif’s anticipated decision about how the Institute will act against climate change, which he has committed to announce “early in the fall semester.”

“Over the years,” the authors write to Reif, “MIT’s global leadership has been built around key “moments of decision”. The singular great issue of our time is climate change, and with it, an opportunity for you to provide great leadership by divesting the Institute’s endowment from fossil fuels as part of a comprehensive climate action plan.”

The letter builds upon 3,400 MIT petition signers, open letters from 83 MIT faculty members and 29 student groups, and a resolution of Cambridge City Council, all calling for MIT climate action including divestment. MIT student group Fossil Free MIT has been campaigning for divestment since November 2012. President Reif’s graduation speech to the Class of 2015 commended the group for inspiring the campus debate on how to respond to climate change.

Pointing to another recommendation of the MIT president’s committee, the open letter argues “that MIT has a unique obligation to stand up for science by also divesting from those who undermine the principles of scientific inquiry and thereby threaten MIT’s own integrity.” The letter coincides with revelations from Pulitzer-winning investigative journalists at InsideClimate News, including MIT alumna Lisa Song, that Exxon learned about the threats of climate change as far back as the 1970s, and then led efforts to cover them up. MIT signed a five-year $25 million deal with ExxonMobil in November 2014.

Asked why he signed the letter, climatologist Michael Mann – whose “hockey stick” global warming graph has made him a well-known target of attacks by climate deniers – explained, “As one of our country’s leading institutions of science research and education, MIT speaks with great authority when it comes to issues of policy-relevant science like climate change. I hope they will use this voice for good by publicly dissociating themselves from fossil fuel companies whose business models ignore science, and from the forces of anti-science that attack it, including funders of climate change denialism like David Koch.” “By divesting, MIT can take a stand for the future of energy and against the toxic tide of climate disinformation. Its impact would be enormous,” Bill McKibben observed.

But with MIT megadonor David Koch as a Life Member of MIT’s Board of Trustees, and with MIT more dependent on industry funding than almost any other university in the country, student organizers say “the climate question is far from a done deal.” In the hopes of tipping the balance, on October 2 they will rally in support of a multi-faceted MIT climate action plan, just as the university’s Board convenes on campus. The rally will be the final day of a week-long series of public events called MIT Climate Countdown, intended “to urge [MIT’s leaders] to find the moral courage to do what science demands and what President Reif’s own committee has recommended.”

Other signatories to the letter, which endorses MIT Climate Countdown, include world-renowned climate scientists such as former NASA climate chief James Hansen and climate advisor to the German government and the Pope Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. The Union of Concerned Scientists has also signed. Its Director of Science & Policy Peter Frumhoff commented, “UCS was born at MIT and we share a deep commitment to scientific integrity and evidence-based decision-making. UCS has divested from fossil fuel companies because their decades-long record of climate disinformation and opposition to sensible limits on climate pollution are clearly inconsistent with this commitment. I strongly encourage MIT to join us.”

Another major institution on board the letter is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, whose President Stephen Heintz said, “We don’t encourage divestment on a whim. But engagement with fossil fuel companies is not enough as we know from our own experience. We think MIT will find, like we are, that a prudent approach to divestment – from coal and tar sands immediately, and from oil and gas as soon as possible – is an economic, moral, and strategic opportunity. It will acknowledge the looming ‘carbon bubble’. And it will align MIT’s investments with the efforts of its scientists and engineers working on climate solutions. The symbolic power of this potent combination would be unique to MIT, and should not be underestimated.”

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The open letter is available at MITClimateCountdown.org/open-letter/.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 9, 2015 Contacts: Geoffrey Supran, Fossil Free MIT (gjsupran@mit.edu, 617-899-8482) Patrick Brown, Fossil Free MIT (prbrown@mit.edu, 574-721-5093) Download Press Release Here

MIT Administration Debates Divestment While Harvard’s Dismisses It

In response to 3,000 nerds-turned-activists, MIT’s administration hosts an unprecedented public debate on whether MIT should divest from fossil fuels, just days before Harvard students and celebrities begin a week of civil disobedience to confront their administration’s stonewalling.

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Today, amidst calls from more than 3,000 MIT members for divestment of the Institute’s $12.4 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry, the MIT Climate Change Conversation committee, charged by MIT’s President Rafael Reif, hosted “Should MIT Divest? A Debate on Fossil Fuel Investment”.

The debate was attended by 500 members of MIT and the wider community and featured six prominent climate change figures: Naomi Oreskes, Don Gould, and John Sterman for divestment; and Brad Hager, Frank Wolak, and Timothy Smith against it.

“We present what we believe is a first-of-its-kind occurrence: A serious campus-wide debate on the pros and cons of fossil fuel divestment, sponsored by the university senior administration that is being petitioned,” opened MIT Vice President Maria Zuber.

MIT’s response to divestment is unique among universities with multi-billion dollar endowments. Two miles down the road at Harvard University students have been forced to resort to blockades and occupations, one arrested, in an effort to engage the administration in a similar dialogue. The MIT debate comes just three days before Harvard Heat Week – a week of “civil civil disobedience” coordinated with student escalations nationwide.

“When the history of our time is written… let it show that MIT had the courage to act when Harvard and other prominent educational institutions chose not to,” urged pro-divestment debater Pitzer College trustee Don Gould, to which the audience erupted into applause.

 MIT Professor John Sterman began the debate, “Divestment is not only right, it is powerful…. 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.”

Naomi Oreskes argued for divestment on the basis of the fossil fuel industry’s record of “challenging the science…supporting attacks on scientists…[and] aggressively lobbying against reasonable public policies.” While there was debate about the appropriate breadth of divestment, even the anti-divestment side made little objection to targeting companies complicit in disinformation.

The anti-divestment side repeatedly propped up what one MIT student divestment advocate characterised as “strawman arguments”. “A university like MIT can do better,” Frank Wolak insisted. “I hate to sound like a parrot economist,” he said, despite his repeated proposals of “a price on carbon” as a better alternative to divestment. Harvard Professor Naomi Oreskes responded, “We completely agree a price on carbon is very strongly needed… but how do we get the political will to pass a carbon tax?… The opposition keeps putting this as a false dichotomy, an ‘either/or’. We are saying this is a ‘both/and’”. To the audience’s amusement, anti-divestment debater Tim Smith agreed: “I like the ‘both/and’ too.”

MIT Professor Brad Hager, debating against divestment, pointed out the dependence of MIT research on fossil fuel industry funding and instead suggested that, “We should engage those who are moving and can be nudged in the right direction.” But he also acknowledged that “some [fossil fuel companies] have an irresponsible cowboy mentality, plundering and laying waste.” MIT Executive Committee member and Wellesley College President Emerita Diana Walsh commented after the debate, “Professor Hager’s story on the con side was compelling.” But overall, she said, “All of us in Kresge [Auditorium] could feel the pro-divestment team swaying the audience.” Earlier today, Walsh published an opinion article calling on universities to follow their students’ lead and seriously consider the options on the table – including divestment – for addressing climate change.

The divestment debate was the fourth and final event of the MIT Climate Change Conversation – a campus-wide debate about what actions MIT should take in the face of the climate crisis. It was launched by President Reif in May 2014 after more than a year of negotiations between the administration and MIT’s student climate change action group pushing for divestment, Fossil Free MIT. More than 3,000 MIT members have signed Fossil Free MIT’s petition for divestment, including almost one-in-three of all undergraduates and over 80 MIT faculty. With the debate over, the committee will now ask the entire MIT community, through six Listening Tour events, “which climate actions it would like to see MIT take.” This will inform the committee’s final report to MIT’s administration, due June 5, 2015, which will in turn “recommend to the President a path forward.”

Diana Walsh said after the debate, “The clear ‘winner’ was the case for a comprehensive approach worthy of MIT.”

Fossil Free MIT member Patrick Brown summed up, “I think this debate is an important first step, especially compared to Harvard’s flat rejection of divestment. We expect MIT to take bold leadership on this issue by heeding the voices of the more than 3,000 MIT members calling for fossil fuel divestment as part of an ambitious, wide-ranging climate action plan.”

Debate recording is available here: http://webcast.amps.ms.mit.edu/spr2015/Climate_Change/09apr/

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On the day of the divestment debate, MIT students turned the 105 windows of MIT’s five-story Chemistry building into giant pixels spelling out “DIVEST”, in characteristic MIT ‘hacking’ tradition. Photo Credit: Patrick Brown. [High res version at: http://www.fossilfreeMIT.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/MIT-DIVEST-Hack.jpg]

 

MIT divestment debate. Photo Credit: Patrick Brown. [High res version at: http://www.fossilfreeMIT.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/MIT-Divestment-Debate.jpg]
 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2014
Contact: 
Geoffrey Supran, Fossil Free MIT (gjsupran@mit.edu, 617-899-8482)
Download Press Release Here

Four-Mile “Global Warming Flood Level” Demonstration Makes Waves Across MIT Campus

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Today, MIT saw the largest climate change demonstration in the Institute’s history. Members of MIT student group Fossil Free MIT affixed four miles of blue caution tape, bearing the words, “Global Warming Flood Level – Tell MIT: Divest From Fossil Fuels”, to buildings and landscaping throughout the campus.

The ‘Blue Line’ marks the flood level that a Hurricane-Sandy-strength storm, enhanced by global warming, is forecast to bring by 2050. Its goal is to inspire an impassioned and action-oriented debate about climate change action at MIT, by highlighting one local impact of global warming.

In response, MIT President Rafael Reif has issued a statement of support: Fossil Free MIT and the MIT Sustainability Summit organizers are doing something very important…they are opening a serious discussion for our community on the most effective ways that MIT, using its distinctive strengths, can make practical headway against climate change.”

Members of Fossil Free MIT, in coordination with the 2014 MIT Sustainability Summit, affixed four miles of blue caution tape to buildings and landscaping throughout the campus. The “Blue Line” ranges from 1-5 feet above ground level, and will remain in place for the duration of the 6th MIT Sustainability Summit (May 3-4, 2014), whose theme is “Coastal Cities – Sustainable Future”. The Blue Line demonstrates the immediacy of flood risks to the Cambridge/Boston area from disasters such as Superstorm Sandy because of global-warming-induced sea level rise.

According to a report from The Boston Harbor Association, the 5-foot storm surge experienced by the Boston area during Sandy, when added to projected sea level rise by 2050, would be enough to overtop the Charles River dam and put vast areas of Cambridge and Boston under several feet of water. Paul Kirshen MS ‘72 PhD ‘75, a professor of civil engineering at the University of New Hampshire and MIT alum, was a lead author of the report.

The objective of this climate change demonstration is to inspire more energetic debate about MIT’s responsibilities and opportunities for leadership and action in the face of the burgeoning climate crisis, by highlighting one local impact of global warming.

Photos available for download at: http://www.fossilfreemit.org/blueline/

 
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