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.”
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.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.