Energy

Climate Change Activists Liken Fossil Fuels To Apartheid

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Climate change activists at the University of Michigan compared the school’s decision last week not to give up fossil fuels to the fight to end apartheid in South Africa.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel’s anti-divestment stance was met with condemnation from the school’s divestment activists. Members of Divest and Invest, a group affiliated with climate change activist Bill McKibben, published an editorial in the school’s newspaper, The Michigan Daily, arguing that Schlissel’s statement downplayed the import of nixing fossil fuel assets.

I do not believe that a persuasive argument has been made that divestment by the U-M will speed up the necessary transition from coal to renewable or less polluting sources of energy,” Schlissel noted in a statement on the university’s website, adding that he does not believe that divesting from fossil fuels is a moral imperative.

“He is correct regarding our school’s reliance on fossil fuels,” the Divest and Invest statement read, “but he fails to address the issue of whether the fossil fuel industry is morally suspect. Fossil fuel combustion is causing climate change that will have adverse, disproportionate and irreversible effects on billions of people — mostly on women, people of color and others who have contributed little to the problem.”

Schlissel is also correct, the statement read, in pointing out that the university’s decision to refuse to accepts assets from tobacco and in South African corporations under that nation’s system of apartheid was a moral and ethical one. But the decision to divest fossil fuel assets is also a moral and ethical concern, the editorial read.
The Divest and Invest editorial  was written jointly by University students Nicholas Jansen, Valeriya Epshteyn and Leonard Kapiloff, as well as University faculty members Knute Nadelhoffer, George Kling and Maria Lasonen-Aarnio.
The activist group also accused the president of falling victim to disinformation campaigns orchestrated by fossil fuel companies, which, the group argues, have contributed to “climate denialism.”
“Disinformation campaigns are antithetical to the values of institutions like the University, and these companies must be held accountable for their unethical and immoral practices (see the New York attorney general’s recent investigation into Exxon Mobil),” the authors argued.

“Our campaign has exposed the moral implications of supporting fossil fuel industries. Resolutions passed by the Central Student Government and the Senate Assembly in support of our position urge the Board of Regents to form a committee to examine divestment,” they continued.

The group concluded its editorial by requesting that Schlissel and the Board of Regents hold a public meeting to continue discussing divestment. The formation of a committee is clearly warranted, the statement suggested. The University was not cowed by the editorial.

UM media spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald told The Daily Caller News Foundation that President Schlissel has nothing more to offer the divestment campaign. The University has made its decision, and there is nothing more to discuss, Fitzgerald said.

He added: “The President and the University have decided to move on.”

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