As the Board of Managers has acknowledged, climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Climate change and our fossil fueled energy infrastructure cause millions of deaths every year and the potential damage wrought by unchecked fossil fuel extraction is unthinkable. We believe that Swarthmore must take leadership on this incredibly urgent, global problem. In order to diligently do so, we must consider fossil fuel divestment, particularly following the announcement by Cambridge Associates.
Following the Cambridge Associates announcement, the recent U.S-China climate deal, and the UN’s latest climate report, fossil fuel investments are in the public eye more than ever. If the world is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius - a commitment that can only be fulfilled by leaving 60%-80% of known carbon reserves in the ground -- the fossil fuel industry will face a potential devaluation of up to 60%, according to the investment bank, HSBC. Continuing to invest in fossil fuels not only increases our endowment’s risk to the carbon bubble’s devaluation, but signals that we, as an institution, believe the fossil fuel industry is a legitimate long-term investment. This is the wrong message being sent at the worst time.
Fortunately, the tide is turning rapidly. 2014 has already been a historic year for the climate movement. Over 400,000 people, including over 200 Swarthmore students and faculty, joined in the People’s Climate March. The next day, the Rockefeller Foundation, built off the wealth of Standard Oil Company, divested. The fossil fuel divestment movement began here at Swarthmore just three years ago. Since then it has grown to 500 campaigns around the world. The movement has assembled a groundbreaking coalition of universities, cities, religious institutions, and world leaders including World Bank President Jim Yong-Kim, U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres ‘79, and U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon. The movement has begun to move large pools of money. Sweden’s AP2 and Norway's public pension fund, totalling over $100 billion, divested.
In his recent letter to the college community, Board of Managers Chair Giles Kemp reiterated arguments made in May 2013 that divestment would slow the growth of our endowment’s by $10 to $15 million per year. This figure was based off the assumption that the College would need to move out of commingled funds and into indexed funds. While commingled funds screened against fossil fuels existed in May 2013, they have become much more widely available due to a rapid growth of institutional demand for fossil free investment. Now that Cambridge Associates has offered to assist Swarthmore in finding those individual managers offering fossil free investment opportunities, the Board’s claims are outdated.
Our endowment is one of our most powerful levers for social change. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, we, as a community, must seriously engage with divestment.
We, the undersigned 101 faculty, call on Swarthmore's Board of Managers to make a public commitment to fossil fuel divestment.
Peter Collings, Physics and AstronomySibelan Forrester, Modern Languages and LiteraturesDavid Cohen, Physics and AstronomyPeter Schmidt, English LiteratureBarry Schwartz, PsychologyTessa Wegener, Modern Languages and LiteraturesStella Christie, PsychologyJodie Baird, PsychologyBakirathi Mani, English LiteratureMicheline Rice-Maximin, Modern Languages and LiteraturesDeb Bergstrand, Mathematics and StatisticsCraig Williamson, English LiteratureCarl Grossman, Physics and AstronomySangina Patnaik, EnglishBenjamin Cherel, Modern Languages and LiteraturesAllen Schneider, Psychology Nathalie Anderson, English LiteratureJean-Vincent Blanchard, Modern Languages and LiteraturesChristopher Fraga, Sociology and AnthropologyGiovanna Di Chiro, Environmental StudiesLee Smithey, Peace and Conflict Studies / Sociology and AnthropologyMark Wallace, ReligionSarah Willie-LeBreton, Sociology and Anthropology Cheryl Grood, Mathematics and StatisticsYvonne Chireau, ReligionChristy Schuetze, Sociology and AnthropologyRachel Epstein, Mathematics and StatisticsBetsy Bolton, EnglishMilton Machuca-Galvez, Latin American StudiesMichele Reimer, PsychologyPeter Baumann, PhilosophyCynthia Halpern, Political ScienceRichard Eldridge, PhilosophyEric Song, English LiteratureNick Kaplinsky, BiologyVincent Formica, BiologyAlex Baugh, BiologyEric Jensen, Physics and AstronomyLuciano Martinez, SpanishAmanda Bayer, EconomicsNanci Buiza, SpanishRobert Weinberg, HistoryMaría Luisa Guardiola, Modern Languages and LiteraturesGanapathy Narayanaraj, Environmental StudiesJose-Luis Machado, BiologyBrad Davidson, BiologyThompson Bradley, Emeritus, Modern Language and LiteraturesAlexandra Gueydan-Turek, FrenchBruce Dorsey, HistoryAmy Graves, Physics and AstronomyJodi Schottenfeld-Roames, BiologySara Hiebert Burch, BiologyElizabeth Vallen, BiologySyd Carpenter, ArtMaya Nadkarni, Sociology and AnthropologyShervin Malekzadeh, Political ScienceAlan Berkowitz, ChineseKelly McConville, Mathematics and StatisticsNathan Sanders, LinguisticsDonna Jo Napoli, LinguisticsKen Sharpe, Political ScienceDaniel Grodner, PsychologyLogan Grider, ArtFarid Azfar, HistoryJoseph Gregorio, Music & DanceElaine Allard, Educational StudiesNora Johnson, EnglishEdwin Mayorga, Educational StudiesFarha Ghannam, Sociology and AnthropologyCatherine Norris, PsychologyTamsin Lorraine, PhilosophyHugh Lacey, Emeritus Professor of PhilosophyAndrew Hauze, Music & DanceDiego Armus, HistoryJill Gladstein, Writing ProgramGwynn Kessler, Religion Jamie Thomas, LinguisticsLisa Smulyan, Educational StudiesMarjorie Murphy, HistorySteven Hopkins, ReligionThomas Whitman, Music and DanceHelene Shapiro, Emerita, Mathematics and StatisticsSteven Piker, Emeritus Professor of AnthropologySteve Viscelli, Sociology and AnthropologyEllen Ross, ReligionNina Johnson, Sociology and AnthropologyJennifer Bradley, Educational StudiesJoy Charlton, Sociology and AnthropologyScott Gilbert, BiologyRachel Buurma, English LiteratureAdrian Gras-Velazquez, Modern Languages and LiteraturesGregory Frost, English LiteratureBen Berger, Political ScienceBraulio Muñoz, SociologyLynne Schofield, Mathematics and StatisticsBarbara Milewski, Music and Dance[name withheld]Sunka Simon, Modern Languages and Literatures / Film and Media StudiesBuYun Chen, HistoryTia Newhall, Computer ScienceJocelyne Noveral, Biology