To the Editor:

A story in the April 24 edition of the Orient ("Mills: Trustees likely too busy to meet with students on divestment this year") included comments by me that have been interpreted incorrectly by some as a statement that legitimizes the view that climate change does not exist.

To be clear, I agree that climate change is real. I believe it is a critical—or, as I said to the Orient—a “hugely important” issue. The scientific evidence is compelling, and I believe that those who deny the existence of climate change are incorrect. However, the overwhelming scientific evidence and the consensus among scientists on the issue does not eliminate the fact that there are those who have different points of view—views shaped by a different interpretation of science, or guided by economics or politics.

More importantly, even for those of us who agree on the existence of climate change, no one can argue that there is currently a consensus at the federal, state, local, or individual level on what to do about the problem, particularly when it comes to energy and conservation. For example, some believe in the imposition of a steep gas tax; others believe in the expansion of hydraulic fracturing. For some, alternative energy like solar and wind power are the answer. For others, a revival of nuclear power offers the best way forward. So, while there should not be a legitimate debate about the existence of climate change, there is surely an ongoing legitimate debate about the solutions.

I believe it is inappropriate for Bowdoin to ignore our duties to the College and our endowment by essentially picking “the winner” among these many positions through divestment from fossil fuels. And those who assert that the economic consequences of divestment to our endowment would not be substantial are profoundly misinformed. The “symbolic” statement of divestment would result in significant changes to our College that would affect each and every one of us today as well as future generations.

That said, I have arranged to have students from Bowdoin Climate Action meet with Bowdoin trustees in October to continue this discussion. I have also offered to consult with the students in preparation for that meeting. While I disagree with their approach, I respect our students’ passion for this critical issue and I applaud their eagerness to join the national debate over what can be done to tackle climate change in our time.


Barry Mills