Correction, January 28: The third paragraph has been changed to note that climate policies will "batter" the earnings of coal, oil, and gas companies, not "better" them.
Bowdoin College should be commended for its efforts to decrease its carbon footprint and become carbon neutral by 2020.
“It’s about addressing the issue of climate change and how that’s part of Bowdoin’s overall mission of serving the common good,” said Keisha Payson, coordinator for a Sustainable Bowdoin, in a September 2013 Orient article.
Next, the College needs to step up and divest from the fossil fuel industry that deceives the public, denies science and blocks solutions. To grasp the seriousness of the climate crisis, we just need to do a little math. Fossil fuel corporations have five times more oil, coal and gas in known reserves than climate scientists think is safe to burn. We have to keep 80 percent of their fossil fuels underground to keep the earth in livable shape. The industry needs to pledge to keep its reserves underground and to put its vast financial resources toward developing alternative energy sources. What is needed is an entire new business model.
Bowdoin’s investment office estimates that divesting would ultimately cause the College to lose $100 million over the next ten years. Other analysts see a quite different picture. There is increased talk of a carbon bubble with the growing recognition that 80 percent of reserves are unusable if we are to avoid runaway climate change. In a move that underscores Wall Street’s growing unease over the business-as-usual strategy of the world’s fossil fuel companies, Bloomberg L.P. unveiled a tool last week that helps investors quantify for the first time how climate policies and related risks might batter the earnings and stock prices of individual oil, coal and natural gas companies.
Daniel M. Kammen, a distinguished professor of energy at the University of Californina, Berkeley writes, “In the case of fossil fuel investments, divesting is not only the moral thing to do but is also financially prudent. As fossil fuel companies continue expanding their search for more hydrocarbons, the world’s carbon budget is shrinking. From Canadian tar sands to shale oil, the bottom of the barrel is proving to be increasingly dirty. When government regulation aligns with this reality—and it must—the vast majority of reserves will have to stay in the ground unburned, rendering them stranded assets. Remaining invested in fossil fuels is a bad bet all around.”
Now is an opportune time for Bowdoin to divest from the fossil fuel industry, to be doing the morally and financially right thing, and to be on the right side of history. As President Barry Mills has said about climate change to students: “Stay involved, only sustained commitment will make a difference.”