Green Economist Admits Fossil Fuel Divestment Doesn’t Accomplish Anything

Jason Hopkins | Energy Investigator

An economics professor and co-author of a study on fossil fuel divestment found that the campaign to withdraw money from oil and gas industries does not do much to solve climate change.

Divestment from fossil fuel companies is a popular demand from environmentalists. More and more climate activists are calling on institutions to divest their money out of the traditional energy sector, believing it to be a step in the right direction to rid the world of fossil fuels. For example, billionaire activist Tom Steyer called on the San Francisco pension board to divest. Steyer’s wife resigned from her position on the Harvard Board of Overseers to protest the university’s lack of action on divestment. Three students at Cambridge University went on a hunger strike to pressure their school to divest, but gave up after their parents told them to stop.

Despite calls for divestment growing louder, a recent study found these campaigns have “not been especially effective” in  reducing carbon emissions — and won’t become effective in the future. Robert Pollin — a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and co-author of the study that examined the success of divestment campaigns — spoke to Truthout, a liberal-leaning news site, about his findings.

“In this new research paper, Tyler Hansen and I concluded that divestment campaigns have not been especially effective as a means of significantly reducing CO2 emissions, and they are not likely to become more effective over time,” Pollin said in an interview published Monday. The 44-page report analyzed available data on global divestment patterns and implemented a statistical modeling exercise that examined the actual impact after institutions decide to divest.

Pollin — who is in favor of sharply receding the country’s carbon footprint — went on to admit much more during the interview. The economics professor said cutting CO2 emissions would have dire consequences on the communities that depend on fossil fuel consumption. (RELATED: College Students Went On Hunger Strike Against Fossil Fuels But Gave Up When Their Parents Got Mad)

“The first [reason politicians are unwilling to cut CO2] is that workers and communities throughout the world whose livelihoods depend on people consuming fossil fuel energy will face major losses — layoffs, falling incomes and declining public-sector budgets to support schools, health clinics and public safety,” he said.

As a solution to climate change, Pollin suggested a “Green New Deal,” an economic overhaul that calls for a major shift to renewable energy. He said such an initiative would create two to three times more jobs than fossil fuel companies currently provide.

‘[W]hat about the private and public fossil fuel companies?” he asked. “The only answer here is that we simply cannot worry about their profits when we are facing a planetary emergency.”

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