News

Committee favors partial divestment

Supports creating ‘Climate Institute’

A report issued by the Climate Change Conversation Committee proposed the creation of a Climate Institute at MIT to address the challenges of climate change, and to provide a framework for the many other recommendations listed in the report.

Released June 15, the report declares climate change to be “society’s grandest challenge of the present day, possibly of all time” and urges MIT to “get its house in order.”

The report represents the culmination of a nine-month-long campus conversation on MIT’s role in combating climate change, sparked by student activism in support of divesting from fossil fuel companies. It presents the findings of the Climate Change Conversation Committee.

The suggestions include establishing a climate-related General Institute Requirement, setting internal carbon pricing, and holding informational seminars with members of Congress. Committee leadership will turn these findings into a set of specific and targeted recommendations to deliver to President L. Rafael Reif.

Given the grave threat climate change poses, the report states, “even exceptional measures should not be eschewed.”

Divestment

One of the most prominent voices throughout the campus-wide conversation was that of Fossil Free MIT, a student group advocating for the divestment of MIT’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry. Over the course of the nine months, FFMIT circulated a petition which garnered over 3,400 signatures out of the 26,000 MIT community members. Geoffrey Supran, President of FFMIT, was a member of the committee that penned the report.

After consideration, the committee rejected “a blanket divestment from all fossil fuel companies.”

“Divestment will likely lead to the loss of engagement with divested companies, including potentially the loss of research funding,” the report read.

Even so, a majority of the committee supported targeted divestment from companies who extract “the fossil fuels that are least compatible with mitigating climate change, for example, coal and tar sands.”

Climate Institute

One of the central ideas that emerged from the report was the creation of a Climate Institute at MIT, which would be a “flagship and organizational framework for MIT’s efforts in confronting the climate challenge.”

The report recommended the Climate Institute be endowed with between 100-200 million dollars, to “provide fellowship funding for students and postdocs, endowed faculty chairs, and seed grants for research and ignition projects.”

The report also suggested instituting a multi-million-dollar prize to encourage “broader and higher‑risk/higher‑return research” into climate change.

A Climate Change GIR

To incorporate teaching on climate science into the undergraduate curriculum, the report proposed the introduction of a GIR on climate change, and the proliferation of classes relating to climate change across all departments.

“A GIR on climate change might take the form of a multi‑disciplinary course involving various topics such as geoscience, engineering, science and technology policy, economics, international relations, and life sciences,” the report said.

The report also suggested the creation of a new minor in Environment and Sustainability.

Community Comments

A 30-day community comment period followed the release of the committee’s findings. The Committee Leadership — consisting of Provost Marty Schmidt, MITEI Director Bob Armstrong, Environmental Solutions Initiative Director Susan Solomon and Vice President of Research Maria T. Zuber — will incorporate suggestions and create a set of recommendations to deliver to President Reif in the fall.

Until July 15, community members are encouraged to share suggestions and responses to the report with climateconversation@mit.edu.

12 Comments
1
Josue Lopez over 2 years ago

I look forward to seeing the MIT administration put into action all the great recommendations made in the report, including divestment from coal and tar sands and the Climate Institute. The MIT community should act upon a diverse set of solutions available.

2
Freedom over 2 years ago

Anybody have the names of the people on the Climate Change Conversation Committee?

I'd like the world to divest from them because they are producing lots of carbon dioxide and doing nothing of value in return.

3
swag over 2 years ago

As an American it is my right to destroy my part of the environment. Its in the constitution.

4
Freedom over 2 years ago

Actually it's neither legal in China nor the US. China is a bit more lenient in their approach, however. They'll tolerate a bit more and simply shoot you if you cross the line. It's more simplified than the American system, which involves years in courts, thousands of affirmative action bureaucrats and stacks of papers that go by the euphemism "science." I'm almost getting a panic attack thinking about it.

Look if the US was serious they'd simplify the system and put tariffs on manufactured goods coming from dirty countries like China to compensate for our stricter standards (notice that this is still free trade even though it makes generic DNC donor Goldberg's stock portfolio go down). Instead they make a complicated system that's so expensive and totalitarian it forces all the manufacturing (minus niche goods) to move to countries like China. Now we get tons of unemployment (welfare, laziness, etc.) and a horrible economy dependent on the tech sector (which is currently being destroyed by affirmative action, by the way). Our air is fresh and our water is clean but our unbalanced industry gives me chills.

In Western countries the general rule is that conservatives put food on the table and liberals tell conservatives what to do. The Marxist liberals are overreaching like they always do with the EPA and all this global warming rhetoric. Vote for the clown who insults people all the time in 2016. If he becomes Ronald McDonald of the US, he can hopefully irritate the liberals enough so the conservatives keep producing food for a little longer. Get serious people.

5
Alison Takemura over 2 years ago

I hope to see the MIT administration act soon, especially by divesting. The report is conservative in this respect, and MIT would do still better to divest to its fullest possible extent, from oil and gas producers as well coal and tar sands, which other schools and institutions have shown is feasible. The committee majority took the stance against broader divestment because of a fear of losing partnerships with the fossil fuel industry, but what are these worth if their business model remains unchanged, and climate change remains a grave danger -- especially to us students, and the families that we might one day have? As MIT, we should do everything we can. Not more, but certainly not less.

6
Freedom over 2 years ago

"climate change remains a grave danger"

Are you referring to the measured global 0.01 degree Celsius temperature _decrease_ between 2005 and 2015? Or are you referring to the modeled 0.35 degree Celsius temperature temperature increase between 2005 and 2015?

Just wondering if you're living in fantasy "help scientists get funding" land or real life land...

"I would say that basically global warming is a non-problem," Physics Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Giaever, July 2015. (And by the way Physics Nobel Prize is one of the only sorta legitimate Nobel Prizes.)

7
Daniel Rothenberg over 2 years ago

This write-up misses the Report's most critical caveat about divestment - it's not clear whether or not such actions are consistent with the myriad complexities of the apparatus which finances, sustains, and supports research and education at MIT. Hence why the Report urges the creation of a new Ethics Advisory Council to review divestment and its moral/ethical concerns within the context of MIT's mission.

Unfortunately, the discussion surrounding the Report is turning out to be consistent with the situation we warned against a month ago in an op-ed here (http://tech.mit.edu/V135/N16/rothenberg.html). This article at least pays lip-service to the other fantastic suggestions embraced by the Report. But to suggest that the Committee "favors partial divestment" is a stretch; they favor it over total divestment, but it is not the shining star of the portfolio the title suggests. Please remember - for the past year, we've had a "Climate Change Conversation", not a "Divestment Discussion."

As we move forward, let's recall the goals of the CCC and recognize that they are far broader than answering the question, "should MIT divest from fossil fuels?"

8
Arthur over 2 years ago

The Climate Change Conversation was meant to address the issue of climate change holistically. Divestment, deniers, and fossil fuel companies deserve some attention, but also distract from important issues such as the system complexity of climate change, the role of technology and innovation, and the role of research and education.

For example, shouldn't MIT play the critical role of helping inform and educate "deniers" or fossil fuel executives instead of driving them away?

9
'Tillerson' over 2 years ago

Thank you for your comment about my being poorly educated and uninformed.

Get your financial engineers to come up with a way to (1) monetize the Calvin cycle and save tropical forestland; or (2) subsidize a 30-year moratorium on low-margin production projects = pay us to cut supply. Ask our lobbyists whether your idea could be made to work.

Then we'll talk.

10
Herms '87 over 2 years ago

Editors: This story doesn't appear on your new website yet. Nor do the other stories in this issue.

PS: In my immediately preceding comment (No. 9), I was channeling ExxonMobil chairman Rex Tillerson, a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

11
Freedom over 2 years ago

8 writes "Inform and educate"

I hate to break your world view (if you want to soften this up, call it "cynicism") but we live in an extremely corrupt system of government. The point of climate change is that a balanced presentation of facts does NOT matter. What matters to the players involved is acquiring political power. That may not be what the bureaucrats "researchers" are saying or what (most of them) are consciously thinking, but the acquisition of power is the best way to summarize their actions. The people who rise to the top of all the bureaucracies (NSF, EPA, etc.) are tautologically the people who act in the most adaptive way possible; and it turns out that these are the people who act in the way that gives their group the most power possible. Especially with the dumbing down of universities and the civil service, moral fraud is absolutely rampant. Truth telling gives way to politics. The people in charge would kill conservatives, if not for the blowback and consequences involved. They are sociopaths and they hate hate hate the truth, since this is what the system selects for.

What are they doing with climate change?

Well, it turns out climate change models are very uncertain and the costs of global warming are rather limited and minimal. As the physics Nobel prize winner said, it's essentially a "non-problem." But this does not benefit the bullshit peddlers grasping for power (researchers searching for funding in a competitive system, ambititous civil servants and their friends and business partners in the mainstream media such as The Tech, etc.).

So the narrative turns towards global warming being the biggest threat to humanity and the TV entertainers eat it right up. And this sticks because the people in power benefit: more ability to regulate and punish people for fun. Humans are a warlike competitive species. Now instead of clubbing each other to death (a rather healthy activity for the winner), they get to commit moral fraud and arbitrarily shut down businesses.

Now the sociopaths in the Dept of Education and clueless followers (all power-hungry, the natural human tendency) such as perhaps 8 have already gotten global warming into schools, and as a caricature of Sarah Palin might say, you betcha I know what disgusting, destructive falsehoods we'll be feeding our children. Homeschooling all the way.

12
Freedom over 2 years ago

Oh and Herms in 9 and 10 show us what a normal, non-sociopathic, non-degenerate person looks like. He examines evidence. He tells the truth. But he has zero chance of gaining mainstream political power. So his behavior is almost like peacocking: handicapping himself to show how awesome he is-- he's so smart and self-reliant he doesn't even need to spout the progressive talking points that will get him invited to the cocktail parties. He is acting like an aristocrat, who are the people who used to have the power in the socially superior days of European monarchies.

That is why I want Herms made supreme ruler of the United States, with absolute power over all citizens and property of the US. Corruption, sanity, intelligence, morality would go way up immediately for as long as he rules. (And I don't even know Herms personally, he's just some internet commenter!)

This is also why I fully 100 percent support Donald Trump even though he is a bozo. The guy might be uninformed, somewhat unintelligent and classless, but he has a hot wife and lots of money, and doesn't bend to the amazingly corrupt bureaucracy which is objectively dead wrong on just about every issue, mostly due to the brainwashing you get in schools and universities. In other words what matters is a LACK of corruption, not knowledge. (This is also why every single national pundit hates Donald Trump: the reason they became a national pundit is because they slowly figured out a combination of positions that maximized their political correctness. For example, immigration is politically correct because it lets in more dumb easily-influenced people, giving the ruling party more votes.)

I don't actually care that much about global warming; I might be ok with overreacting to the small problem of climate change given the uncertainties. But the far far bigger point is it illustrates the big problem of rampant corruption among the people that our system holds up as "intellectuals" and "teachers." Political correctness is all bunk and it's worse than anything the Christian church has ever done in terms of moral fraud.