An Open Letter

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Faculty of Harvard University to the President and Fellows

April 10, 2014

TOTAL: 190 signers

Our University invests in the fossil fuel industry: this is for us the central issue.  We now know that fossil fuels cause climate change of unprecedented destructive potential.  We also know that many in this industry spend large sums of money to mislead the public, deny climate science, control legislation and regulation, and suppress alternative energy sources.

We are therefore disappointed in the statements on divestment made by President Faust on October 3, 2013 and April 7, 2014.  They appear to misconstrue the purposes and effectiveness of divestment.  We believe that the Corporation is making a decision that in the long run will not serve the University well.

Our sense of urgency in signing this Letter cannot be overstated.  Humanity’s reliance on burning fossil fuels is leading to a marked warming of the Earth’s surface, a melting of ice the world over, a rise in sea levels, acidification of the oceans, and an extreme, wildly fluctuating, and unstable global climate.  These physical and chemical changes, some of which are expected to last hundreds, if not thousands, of years are already threatening the survival of countless species on all continents.  And because of their effects on food production, water availability, air pollution, and the emergence and spread of human infectious diseases, they pose unparalleled risks to human health and life.

The World Health Organization estimated in 2005 that climate change caused some 150,000 deaths worldwide each year.  The heads of the American College of Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians of London in 2009 joined leaders of medical colleges from 12 other countries in calling climate change “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”

Divestment is an act of ethical responsibility, a protest against current practices that cannot be altered as quickly or effectively by other means.  The University either invests in fossil fuel corporations, or it divests.  If the Corporation regards divestment as “political,” then its continued investment is a similarly political act, one that finances present corporate activities and calculates profit from them.

The only way to remain “neutral” in such circumstances is to bracket ethical principles even while being deeply concerned about consequences.  Slavery was once an investment issue, as were apartheid and the harm caused by smoking.

In the past, the University did divest from certain industries on ethical grounds.  Harvard’s leadership—initiated by faculty, students, and alumni—is credited with making campaigns against apartheid and smoking far more effective.

* * *

Financially, no evidence exists that planned divestment would damage Harvard.  As awareness grows that burning known fossil fuel reserves will accelerate climate change to a catastrophic degree, and as fossil fuel consumption moderates, planned divestment will, in fact, strengthen the portfolio of the University.  A number of studies, including one by S&P Capital IQ, demonstrate that over the last ten years, for example, an endowment reflecting the S&P 500 without targeted fossil fuel companies would have outpaced one with them.  Moreover, study of fossil fuel divestment suggests it need not lower the overall value of investors’ holdings, and that “those that commit to divestment should consider re-directing investment to renewable energy alternatives” (Atif Ansar, Ben Caldecott, James Tilbury, “Stranded assets and the fossil fuel divestment campaign:  what does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?”  Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, 2013, pp. 71-72).

Recent pronouncements from authoritative quarters support our call for action. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) states that the “continued and dangerous rise in greenhouse gases . . . is in large part the direct result of past investments in . . . fossil fuels.”  She warns that “institutional investors who ignore climate risk face being increasingly seen as blatantly in breach of their fiduciary duty.” (January 15, 2014)

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Harvard Medical School graduate, and former Professor and Chairman of HMS’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, even includes divestment as a legitimate tactic:  “The good news is that there is action we all can take . . . we can divest and tax that which we don’t want, the carbon that threatens development gains over the last 20 years.”  He goes on to urge:  “Be the first mover.  Use smart due diligence.  Rethink what fiduciary responsibility means in this changing world.” (January 24, 2014)

* * *

If any doubt remains about long-term plans of fossil fuel corporations, consider the signature statement of the American Petroleum Institute: “a secure energy future for generations to come.”  API corporations are determined to produce more of the same “for generations”:  more fossil fuel extraction, more sales, more denial or evasion of science.  Coal companies, similarly, proclaim plans to continue mining for hundreds of years.

* * *

The aim of divestment is not to drive these corporations out of business.  It was never the intention of Harvard’s South African or tobacco related divestments to eliminate industries.

Instead, divestment aims to expose corporate attitudes and change corporate behavior.  And indeed, the most comprehensive study of divestment to date, published by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford and cited above, indicates that past divestment strategies forced changes in corporate behavior, government regulation, legal statues, and even share prices, that would not otherwise have been accomplished.

* * *

It seems self-contradictory to argue that Harvard owns a very small percentage of shares in a group of stocks (shares that, moreover, represent a small percentage of its own holdings) yet can nevertheless exert greater influence on corporate behavior by retaining rather than selling that stock as protest.  If Harvard were a major shareholder, that argument might make sense, but Harvard is not.

The President and Fellows are working assiduously to reduce the University’s greenhouse emissions, while maintaining investments that promote their increase locally and worldwide.  The President and Fellows are right to be concerned about the “troubling inconsistency” of these investments.

* * *

As the statements of October 3, 2013 and April 7, 2014 indicate, the Harvard Corporation wishes to influence corporate behaviors in the fossil fuel and energy sectors.  We therefore ask:

How, exactly, will the University “encourage” fossil fuel corporations in “addressing pressing environmental imperatives”?  Will Harvard initiate or support shareholder resolutions?  Will it divest from coal companies?  Will it ask questions at shareholder meetings?  Will it set standards analogous to the Sullivan Principles?  Will it conduct private meetings?

In short, how long will Business As Usual continue?

The questions in this section are not rhetorical.  They require answers.

* * *

We know that fossil fuel use must decrease.  To achieve this goal, not only must research and education be pursued with vigor, pressure must also be exerted.  If there is no pressure, then grievous harm due to climate change will accelerate and entrench itself for a span of time that will make the history of Harvard look short.

We the undersigned are faculty and officers of the University, many with knowledge and research in climate science, energy, business management, ethics, and the effects of climate change on health, prosperity, and biodiversity.  Many are alumni and donors.  We appeal to our colleagues, fellow alumni, and donors to join us in signing this statement, as an act of conscience and fiscal responsibility, and in asking the Corporation to divest, as soon as possible, its holdings in fossil fuel corporations.

Signed:

James G. Anderson
Philip S. Weld Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry
Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology

______

David Armitage
Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Carmen Arnold-Biucchi
Damarete Curator of Ancient Coins, Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art
Harvard Art Museum
Lecturer on the Classics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
President of the INC

______

Alberto Ascherio
Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Elizabeth Bartholet
Morris Wasserstein Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

______

Soha Bayoumi
Lecturer, Department of the History of Science
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Jason Beckfield
Professor of Sociology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Janet Beizer
Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Eugene Beresin
Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

______

Robin Bernstein
Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Andrew Berry
Lecturer, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Alex Bloemendal
Simons Fellow
Department of Mathematics

______

David Bor
Charles S. Davidson Associate Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School

______

J. Wesley Boyd
Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

______

Matthew Boyle
Professor of Philosophy
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Joseph Brain
Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental Physiology
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Neil Brenner
Professor of Urban Theory
Harvard Graduate School of Design

______

Julie Buckler
Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Lawrence Buell
Powell M. Cabot Research Professor of American Literature, Emeritus
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Peter Burgard
Professor of German
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Kevin Caffrey
Course Director and Lecturer, Committee on Degrees in Social Studies
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Alfonso Caramazza
Daniel and Amy Starch Professor of Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Courtney B. Cazden
Charles William Eliot Professor Education Emerita
Harvard Graduate School of Education

______

Joyce E. Chaplin
James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History
Affiliated Professor of the History of Science
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Rodrigo Chacón
Lecturer on Social Studies
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

David Charbonneau
Professor of Astronomy
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Eric Chivian
Founder and Director Emeritus
Center for Health and the Global Environment
Harvard Medical School
Shared 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for Co-founding International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

______

Stephen Chong
Associate Professor of Computer Sciences
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

______

Francis X. Clooney, S.J.
Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology 
Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions
Harvard Divinity School

______

Melissa Coco
Teaching Associate in Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

______

Stacey Combes
Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Tom Conley
Abbot Lawrence Lowell Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies and of Romance Languages and Literatures
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Kirkland House Co-Master

______

Harvey Cox
Hollis Research Professor of Divinity, Emeritus
Harvard Divinity School

______

Thomas B.F. Cummins
Dumbarton Oaks Professor of the History of Pre-Columbian and Colonial Art
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Goodarz Danaei
Assistant Professor of Global Health
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Norman Daniels
Professor of Ethics and Population Health
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Sergio Delgado
Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Christine Desan
Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

______

Daniel Donoghue
John P. Marquand Professor of English
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Barry Dorn
Lecturer on Public Health Practice
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Sarah Dryden-Peterson
Assistant Professor
Harvard Graduate School of Education

______

David Elmer
Professor of the Classics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Director of Undergraduate Studies

______

James Engell
Gurney Professor of English and Professor of Comparative Literature
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Sukhada Fadnavis
Benjamin Peirce Fellow
Department of Mathematics

______

Brian D. Farrell
Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Luis Fernandez-Cifuentes
Robert S. and Ilse Friend Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Rachel Flanders
Lecturer in Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

______

Christopher Foote
Professor of Practice of Economics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

David Foster
Director of the Harvard Forest
Senior Lecturer on Biology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Gerald Frug
Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

______

Dennis Gaitsgory
Professor of Mathematics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Marshall Ganz
Senior Lecturer in Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School

______

Hunter Gehlbach
Associate Professor of Education
Harvard University Graduate School of Education

______

Rachel Gillett
Lecturer and Assistant Director of Studies, History and Literature
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

____

Daniel A. Goodenough
Takeda Professor of Cell Biology, Emeritus
Harvard Medical School

______

Jorie Graham
Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory in the Department of English
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Virginie Greene
Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Adriana Gutiérrez
Senior Preceptor in Spanish, Romance Languages and Literatures
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Güven Güzeldere
Senior Lecturer on Philosophy and Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Janet Halley
Royall Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

______

Barbara Hamm
Instructor in Psychology, Department of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

______

James Hanken
Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology
Director, Museum of Comparative Zoology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Jon Hanson
Alfred Smart Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

______

Anne Harrington
Professor of the History of Science
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Charles Harris
Professor of Landscape Architecture, Emeritus
Graudate School of Design

______

Stephen Harrison
Giovanni Armenise-Harvard Professor in Basic Biomedical Science
Harvard Medical School

______

Bruce Hay
Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

______

Thomas Hayes
Lecturer on Physics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Judith Herman
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

______

Michael Herzfeld
Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Patrice Higonnet
Goelet Professor of French History
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Heather Hill
Professor of Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education

______

David Hoffman
John H. Watson, Jr. Lecturer on Law
Harvard Law School

______

Sharon Howell
Allston Burr Dean of Adams House
Lecturer in History and Literature
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

John Huth
Donner Professor of Science
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Eric Jacobson
Lecturer, Department of Global Health & Social Medicine
Harvard Medical School

______

Alice Jardine
Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Christopher Jencks
Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy
Harvard Kennedy School

______

Andrew Jewett
Associate Professor of History and of Social Studies
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Justin Junge
Lecturer, Department of Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Martha Ellen Katz
Clinical Instructor in Medicine
Harvard Medical School

_____

Tamara Kay
Associate Professor of Sociology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Co-Director of Harvard’s Transnational Studies Initiative

______

David Keith
Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School

______

Duncan Kennedy
Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence
Harvard Law School

______

Niall G. Kirkwood
Professor of Landscape Architecture and Technology
Graduate School of Design

______

Michael Klagsbrun
Patricia A. Donahoe Professor of Surgery
Harvard Medical School

______

Elena Kramer
Bussey Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Nancy Krieger
Professor of Social Epidemiology
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Michele Lamont
Robert I Goldman Professor of European Studies
Professor of Sociology and African and African-American Studies
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Robert Levin
Dwight P. Robinson, Jr. Professor of the Humanities
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Richard Levins
John Rock Professor of Population Sciences
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Matthew H. Liang
Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Caroline Light
Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies
Harvard Program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Jonathan Losos
Monique and Philip Lehner Professor for the Study of Latin America
Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Curator in Herpetology, Museum of Comparative Zoology

______

Jane Mansbridge
Charles F. Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values
Harvard Kennedy School

______

Stephen Alan Marglin
Walter S. Barker Professor of Economics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Barry Mazur
Gerhard Gade University Professor of Mathematics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Timothy McCarthy
Lecturer on History and Literature and on Public Policy
Program Director, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
Harvard Kennedy School

______

John E. McDonough
Professor of Practice
Department of Health Policy and Management
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Dan McKanan
Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Senior Lecturer
Harvard Divinity School

______

Nicco Mele
Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School

______

Everett Mendelsohn
Professor of the History of Science, Emeritus
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Willa Miller
Visiting Lecturer on Buddhist Ministry
Harvard Divinity School

______

Danny Milner
Associate Professor of Pathology
Harvard Medical School

______

May Moreshet
Clinical Veterinarian
Harvard Center for Comparative Medicine
Harvard Medical School

______

George Moseley
Lecturer in Health Law and Management
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Samuel Myers
Instructor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Senior Research Scientist
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Afsaneh Najmabadi
Francis Lee Higginson Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Ken Nakayama
Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Rachel Nardin
Assistant Professor of Neurology
Harvard Medical School

______

Laura Nasrallah
Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity
Harvard Divinity School

______

Bernhard Nickel
Professor of Philosophy
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Bjorn R. Olsen
Hersey Professor of Cell Biology
Harvard Medical School
Professor Development Biology and Dean for Research
Harvard School of Dental Medicine

______

Naomi Oreskes
Professor of the History of Science
Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Rohini Pande
Mohammad Kamal Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School

_____

Richard Parker
Lecturer
Harvard Kennedy School

______

Elizabeth Parsons
Clinical Instructor in Psychology, Department of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

______

Leah Price
Francis Lee Higginson Professor of English
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Jose Rabasa
Long Term Visiting Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

James Recht
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

______

Matthew Reece
Assistant Professor of Physics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Eric Rentschler
Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Emily Riehl
Benjamin Peirce Fellow, Department of Mathematics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Rebecca Rogers
Chief Resident in Internal Medicine
Harvard Medical School

______

Sophia Roosth
Assistant Professor of the History of Science
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Nancy L. Rosenblum
Senator Joseph Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Meredith Rosenthal
Professor of Health Economics and Policy
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Peter Sacks
John P. Marquand Professor of English in Department of English
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Stephanie Sandler
Ernest E. Monrad Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Mark Schiefsky
Professor of the Classics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

William Schmitt
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School

______

Jeremiah Schuur
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School

______

Edward Seldin
Associate Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Harvard School of Dental Medicine

______

Susanna Siegel
Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

James Simpson
Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Professor of English
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Daniel Lord Smail
Professor of History
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Doris Sommer
Ira and Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

John Stauffer
Professor of English and of African and African American Studies
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Gisela Striker
Walter C. Klein Professor of Philosophy and of the Classics, Emerita
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Joji Suzuki
Instructor in Psychiatry
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School

______

Richard F. Thomas
George Martin Lane Professor of Classics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Harvard College Professor

______

Sally Thompson
Clinical Instructor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

______

William Todd
Harry Tuchman Levin Professor of Literature
Professor of Comparative Literature
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Mark Tushnet
William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

______

Shelley Tworoger
Associate Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School

______

John Wakeley
Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Christopher Walsh
Hamilton Kuhn Distinguished Professor
Harvard Medical School

______

Thomas Walz
Professor of Cell Biology
Harvard Medical School

______

Natasha Warikoo
Assistant Professor
Harvard University Graduate School of Education

______

Mary C. Waters
M.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Nicholas Watson
Professor of English and Chair of Medieval Studies
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Jason Weisfeld
Instructor
Harvard School of Public Health

______

Christopher Winship
Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Kenneth Winston
Lecturer in Ethics
Faculty Chair, Singapore Program
Harvard Kennedy School

______

John Womack, Jr.
Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, Emeritus
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Carl Wunsch
Visiting Professor of Climate and Physical Oceanography
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Susan Yelin
Senior Research Fellow, Department of Physics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

______

Alan Zaslavsky
Professor of Health Care Policy (Statistics)
Harvard Medical School

______

Shoshana Zuboff
Charles Edward Wilson Professor, Emerita
Harvard Business School