Faculty Letter

Fossil Free Yale welcomes faculty engagement in our campaign for divestment. As respected academics and employees of the University, faculty members strengthen our voice as we call for Yale to be a world leader and moral authority on climate change.   One of the most important ways faculty can participate is by signing our faculty letter. (please allow a few days for new signatures to be posted)

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Global climate change and its consequences are critical challenges of our time, and Yale has important and necessary roles to play in addressing them.
–President Peter Salovey, Aug. 27, 2014

In August of 2014, the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility (CCIR) decided not to divest the University’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry. We, the undersigned members of the Yale faculty, were greatly disappointed by this decision, and believe that the Yale Corporation must reconsider. We agree with President Peter Salovey that climate change is a critical challenge of our time. According to the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks” (1).

We also agree with President Salovey that Yale has an important part to play in addressing these issues. But while we applaud the University’s ongoing commitment to creating a more sustainable campus, existing initiatives fail to fully address the global nature of the climate crisis. Yale cannot compensate for the broader damages that its investments inflict solely by greening our own operations. Furthermore, Yale must remember that the practices of the fossil fuel industry disproportionately affect people of color, low-income communities, indigenous peoples, and citizens of developing nations. As the IPCC concludes, “Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development” (1). Climate change is not just an environmental issue; it is a justice issue. To wean ourselves off of fossil fuels as a campus, while worthwhile, only addresses a small fraction of the problem.

The CCIR argues that since greenhouse gases are released by burning fossil fuels rather than extracting them, fossil fuel companies are not responsible for the social injury of climate change. We find this reasoning to be flawed; analogously, although simply manufacturing cigarettes does not cause lung cancer, Yale still has acknowledged the role that tobacco companies play in compromising national health (2). Similarly, the world has become addicted to fossil fuels, and fossil fuel companies do not simply extract and supply — they promote fossil fuel dependency by funding “think tanks” and politicians who deny the fundamental reality of climate change and by lobbying to obstruct critical governmental action, such as a carbon tax, regulation of carbon emissions, or strong measures to promote renewable energy (3, 4). The fossil fuel companies appear bent on discovering, extracting, and selling every last ounce of fossil fuel, using ever more extreme extraction measures. Success in this endeavor will mean disaster for our planet (5).

Furthermore, the CCIR questions divestment as a tactic by citing that the purpose of the endowment is primarily to support “the functioning and success of the university as an academic enterprise” (6). But, we do not believe that supporting academic pursuits and investing in a socially and morally responsible manner are mutually exclusive goals. We reject the assumption that a divested endowment would be less capable of supporting Yale than one comprised in part of fossil fuels holdings. The UN Environmental Programme Finance Initiative (7), S&P Capital IQ (8), and Veris (9) have all found that divesting from fossil fuels would have little effect on an endowment’s returns. And, in the future, as governments regulate emissions and extraction becomes more expensive, fossil fuel investments could become even less profitable if these assets become stranded, which they must become if substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are to be achieved.

The movement to divest from the fossil fuel industry is becoming a burgeoning social movement led by our nation’s youth, including students at Yale College, who understand the dire threat that climate change poses to their future. We have seen such campus movements before: for civil rights, for peace in Vietnam, for women’s rights, for gay and lesbian rights, for divestment from South Africa. These movements have been on the right side of history, and fossil fuel divestment is no exception. A growing number of universities, colleges, churches, funds, and cities have already committed to divest.

Yale’s guidelines in The Ethical Investor state that the University has the moral obligation to recognize and account for the social injury that its investments cause (10). Furthermore, the CCIR report states that “Taking into account non-economic factors is not a decision to be made lightly, and a decision to divest or refrain from certain investments should be taken only when justified by the presence of grave social injury and broad moral consensus concerning that injury…” (6). We believe that the threat of climate change rises to the level of grave social injury and that the divestment movement and others are on the path toward developing a broad moral consensus on this issue. We therefore call for a renewed dialogue across the University about the merits of divestment. We call on the Yale Corporation to reconsider its decision not to divest and, furthermore, to work with President Salovey and the rest of the Yale community to create a more ethical and sustainable investment strategy. Imagine if Yale University, one of the world’s premier universities with one of the largest endowments, were to take the lead in forging this broad moral consensus by divesting from fossil fuels. The impact would be enormous!

Sincerely,

Faculty Signatories

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  1. Gilbert M. Joseph— Farnam Professor of History
  2. Charles Schmuttenmaer— Professor, Chemistry
  3. John E. Roemer— Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Professor of Political Science and Economics
  4. Thomas Pogge— Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs
  5. Nadine Unger— Assistant Professor, Forestry & Environmental Studies
  6. Hazel Carby— Professor, American Studies
  7. Peter Raymond— Professor, Forestry & Environmental Studies
  8. Matthew Frye Jacobson— William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies and History
  9. James C. Scott— Professor, Political Science, Anthropology, Forestry & Environmental Studies
  10. Albert Icksang Ko— Professor and Chair, Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health
  11. Ron Eyerman— Professor, Sociology
  12. Mary Evelyn Tucker— Senior Lecturer & Senior Research School, Forestry & Environmental Studies and Divinity School
  13. Glenda Gilmore— Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History
  14. Amy Vedder— Lecturer, Forestry & Environmental Studies
  15. Amity Doolittle— Senior Lecturer, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
  16. Robert Dubrow— Professor, Chronic Disease Epidemiology
  17. Marcela Echeverri— Assistant Professor, History
  18. Peter A. Swenson— C.M. Saden Professor, Department of Political Science
  19. Laura Wexler— Professor, American Studies and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies
  20. Joseph Fischel— Asst. Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  21. Michael R. Dove— Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
  22. Vanessa Agard-Jones— Assistant Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and CC ’00
  23. Greta LaFleur— Assistant Professor, American Studies
  24. Jennifer Klein — Professor, History
  25. Mary Lui— Professor, American Studies and History
  26. Jean-Christophe Agnew— Professor, American Studies and History
  27. Daphne A. Brooks— Professor, African American Studies, Theater Studies, and American Studies
  28. John A. Grim— Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar, Forestry & Environmental Studies
  29. Victor Salvador Batista— Professor, Chemistry
  30. Elisabeth Jean Wood— Professor, Political Science
  31. Kaveh Khoshnood— Associate Professor, Yale School of Public Health
  32. Susan Stokes— John S Saden Professor of Political Science
  33. Melinda Pettigrew— Associate Professor, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, School of Public Health
  34. Peter J. Krause— Senior Research Scientist, Yale School of Public Health
  35. Sohrab Ismail-Beigi— Professor of Applied Physics
  36. Rob Bailis— Associate Professor, Forestry & Environmental Studies
  37. Rosie Bsheer— Assistant Professor, History
  38. Selma Vital— Lecturer, Portuguese
  39. Steven Pincus— Bradford Durfee Professor of History
  40. Laura Barraclough— Assistant Professor, American Studies
  41. Thomas J. Near— Associate Professor Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Master Saybrook College
  42. Alison P. Galvani— Professor of Epidemiology (Microbial Diseases), School of Public Health
  43. Jeannette R. Ickovics— Professor of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases), School of Public Health
  44. Rina Garcia Assistant— Professor, Internal Medicine
  45. Anne Eller— Assistant Professor, History
  46. Jill Richards— Assistant Professor, English
  47. Daniel Magaziner— Assistant Professor, History
  48. Karen Hébert— Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
  49. Michael Denning— William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of American Studies
  50. Susan G. Clark— Professor adjunct, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
  51. Karuna Mantena— Associate Professor of Political Science
  52. Crystal Feimster— Assistant Professor, African American Studies, American Studies, History
  53. Marta Figlerowicz— Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature and English
  54. Robert Heimer— Professor, Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, School of Public Health
  55. Briallen Hopper— Lecturer, English
  56. Birgit Brander Rasmussen— Assistant Professor, American Studies and Ethnicity, Race, & Migration
  57. Inderpal Grewal— Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  58. Joseph Errington— Professor, Anthropology
  59. Jan L. Hagens— Lecturer, Comparative Literature
  60. Margaret A. Farley— Professor Emerita, Divinity Schol
  61. Kristina Talbert-Slagle— Lecturer, Yale School of Public Health
  62. John Pachankis— Associate Professor, Chronic Disease Epidemiology
  63. Nicole Deziel— Assistant Professor, Environmental Health Sciences
  64. Debbie Humphries— Clinical Instructor, Epidemiology of Microbial Disease
  65. Danya Keene— Assistant Professor, Social Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Health
  66. Tisa Wenger— Associate Professor, Divinity School
  67. Joan Monin— Assistant Professor, Chronic Disease Epidemiology
  68. Ling Mu— Senior Lecturer II, East Asian Languages and Literatures
  69. Tina Lu— Professor, East Asian Languages and Literature
  70. Gary W. Brudvig— Professor, Chemistry
  71. Louise Edwards— Lecturer, Astronomy
  72. Marney White— Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Medicine, Yale School of Public Health
  73. Ian Quinn— Professor, Department of Music
  74. William Zhou— Senior Lector, East Asian Languages and Literatures
  75. Asghar Rastegar MD— Professor of Medicine
  76. Alicia Schmidt Camacho— Professor, American Studies
  77. Jonathan Guez— Part-Time Instructor, Department of Music
  78. Catherine Yeckel— Associate Research Science and Lecturer, School of Public Health and Environmental Health Sciences
  79. Martin Klein— Lecturer, Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health
  80. Jenifer Van Vleck— Assistant Professor, History
  81. Fred Simmons— Assistant Professor, Divinity School
  82. Elaine O’Keefe— Lecturer and Executive Director Office of Public Health Practice, Yale School of Public Health
  83. Marcella Nunez-Smith— Associate Professor of Medicine (General Medicine) and of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases)
  84. Adam Reid Sexton— Lecturer, English
  85. Bill Weber— Lecturer, Forestry & Environmental Studies
  86. Mark Schlesinger— Professor, Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health
  87. William W. Kelly— Professor of Anthropology and Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies
  88. Catherine Nicholson— Assistant Professor, English
  89. Mary Beth Decker— Lecturer, Forestry & Environmental Studies
  90. James Silk— Clinical Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  91. David P. Watts— Professor, Anthropology
  92. Thomas Graedel— Professor, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
  93. Carol Carpenter— Senior Lecturer, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
  94. Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan— Professor, Anthropology
  95. Alark Saxena—  Lecturer, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
  96. Erik Harms— Associate Professor, Anthropology
  97. Janet Ruffing, RSM— Professor, Practice of Spirituality and Ministerial Leadership
  98. Chloe Starr— Associate Professor, Divinity School
  99. Teresa Berger— Professor, Institute of Sacred Music and Divinity School
  100. Helen F. Siu— Professor, Anthropology
  101. Paul Kockelman— Professor, Anthropology
  102. Vesla Weaver— Assistant Professor, African American Studies and Political Science
  103. Ben Kiernan— Whitney Griswold Professor of History
  104. Annie Harper— Associate Research Scientist, Department of Psychiatry
  105. David Berg— Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry
  106. Yawei Zhang— Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Health Sciences
  107. Leah Ferrucci— Associate Research Scientist, Yale School of Public Health
  108. Douglas Shenson— Associate Clinical Professor, Chronic Disease Epidemiology, School of Public Health
  109. Joseph Ross— Associate Professor of Medicine
  110. Inginia Genao— Associate Professor of Medicine (General Medicine); Medical Director, Adult Primary Care Center
  111. Brad Richards— Instructor of Medicine (Internal Medicine)
  112. John P. Moriarty— Associate Professor of Medicine (General Medicine)
  113. E Jennifer Edelman— Assistant Professor, Medicine
  114. Emily Wang— Assistant Professor of Medicine (Internal Medicine)
  115. Michael R. O’Brien, MD— Clinical Instructor of Medicine (Internal Medicine) 
  116. Elizabeth Roessler— Assistant Professor, Yale Physician Associate Program
  117. Laura J. Morrison— Associate Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology and Geriatrics)
  118. Lydia Dugdale— Assistant Professor, Yale School of Medicine
  119. Krisda Chaiyachati— Clinical instructor, Yale School of Medicine
  120. Janet Ho—Instructor in Medicine, Chief Resident, Internal Medicine Primary Care
  121. Karen Wang— Associate Research Scientist in Medicine (General Medicine)
  122. Jeremy Schwartz— Assistant Professor of Medicine (General Internal Medicine) 
  123. Stephen Holt— Assistant Professor of Medicine (Internal Medicine)
  124. Tracy Rabin— Assistant Professor of Medicine (General Internal Medicine)
  125. Brendon Lewis Graeber, MD— Assistant Professor of Medicine, Diagnostic Radiology and Pediatrics
  126. Sarita Soares— Assistant Professor of Medicine
  127. Auguste H. Fortin VI— Associate Professor of Medicine
  128. Lisa Sanders— Associate Professor, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine
  129. Robert Nardino— Assistant Professor, Medicine
  130. Lisa Puglisi, MD— Assistant Professor of Medicine
  131. John Carlson— Higgins Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Citations

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  1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers. http://ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf
  2. Yale Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility. Policies and Past Actions.   http://acir.yale.edu/policies_and_past_actions.html
  3. Greg Michalec and Skye Bender-deMoll “113th (2013-2014) Senate.” Oil Change International. 2015. http://dirtyenergymoney.com/view.php?type=congress#view=connections
  4. Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. Bloomsbury Press, NY, 2010.
  5. James Hansen, Pushker Kharecha, Makiko Sato, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Frank Ackerman, et al. Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature. PLoS ONE 8(12): e81648. 2013.
  6. Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility. Statement of the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility. 2014.
  7. United Nations Environmental Programme Finance Initiative and Mercer. Demystifying Responsible Investment Performance. 2007.
  8. Tom Zeller. Fossil Fuel Divestment: Smart Bet or Losing Strategy. Forbes. 2015.
  9. Patricia Farrar-Rivas and Anders Ferguson. Emerging Research on Climate Change Risk and Fossil Fuel Divestment. Veris. 2014.
  10. John G. Simon, Charles W. Powers, Jon P. Gunnesmann. The Ethical Investor – Universities and Corporate Responsibility. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1972.

 

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