Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Our goal of disrupting business as usual this morning was absolutely met," read a statement on Tuesday from Divest Harvard students. (Photo: Divest Harvard)

With University's Carbon Footprint Exposed, Harvard's 'Heat Week' Gets Hotter

Divest Harvard expands blockade and claims momentum on campus is 'building'

Deirdre Fulton

With reports released this week exposing Harvard University's enormous carbon footprint, students, alumni, faith leaders, and community members are amplifying their call for the prestigious university to divest from its fossil fuel holdings.

Harvard Heat Week, five days of rallies and civil disobedience aimed at pressuring Harvard to pull its investments from the coal, oil, and gas industries, began Sunday and will run through Friday.

On Tuesday morning, the organizing group Divest Harvard announced it had expanded its blockade by blocking administrators' access to all six entrances of University Hall, while maintaining the currently blockaded three doors of Massachusetts Hall.

"Our goal of disrupting business as usual this morning was absolutely met," reads a statement from Divest Harvard students. "Administrators were not able to enter either Massachusetts Hall or University Hall, therefore hearing our message loud and clear. Our momentum on campus is also building—with this morning’s action attracting more than 40 student blockaders, as well as staff members who joined throughout the morning."

On Wednesday, the activists seized on a study by the group Fossil Free Indexes, which found that Harvard's carbon investments—at least those the school disclose—use about $1 billion of the school's endowment and finance more than 100 million tons of "potential carbon dioxide emissions." There is little information available about how the school allocates the remaining $35 billion of its endowment, which is the largest of its kind in the world.

According to Mashable:

...For the directly held portion of its endowment, which is disclosed, Fossil Free Indexes found that the university finances 2.3 million tons of potential carbon dioxide emissions related to the reserves of coal, oil and gas companies. The majority of this is financed through the holding of seven exchange-traded fund positions, with 45% of it related to the ownership of equities in four particular fossil fuel companies.

Harvard holds $19.6 million of equity in Anadarko Petroleum, Petrobras, Range Resources and Vale, a Brazilian mining corporation.

The total potential carbon dioxide emissions from the oil, gas and coal reserves of these four companies, if all their current reserves were to be burned, would amount to 11 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, a separate report by the South Pole Group—commissioned by faculty and student groups of Divest Harvard and 350.org—concluded that the estimated greenhouse gas emissions from the university’s investments are over 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, roughly the equivalent to those of the country of Jamaica or the U.S. states of Rhode Island or Delaware.

"In case there weren’t enough reasons why Harvard should divest, South Pole Group’s report shows that this administration’s intransigence has worsened climate change, full stop," said (pdf) Karthik Ganapathy, U.S. communications manager for 350.org. "We encourage Senior Harvard management to read the findings of this report, listen to the overwhelming majority of the student body in favor of divestment, and begin the process of cutting the university’s ties to fossil fuels."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientists Revive ‘Zombie’ Virus After 50,000 Years Trapped in Siberian Permafrost

Researchers documented 13 never-before-seen viruses that have been lying dormant, frozen in thick ice, over tens of thousands of years.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Cleaner Air Is Coming' as London Expands Vehicle Pollution Fee to Entire Metro Area

"Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs," noted Mayor Sadiq Khan in announcing the expansion.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Amazing News': Historic Shark Protections Approved at Global Wildlife Convention

Up to 90% of sharks targeted by the lucrative fin trade will now be protected, said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'The Nightmare Materializes': Far-Right Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir to Be Israel's National Security Minister

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Palestinian Authority said Ben-Gvir's elevation to national security minister could have a "catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Jake Johnson ·


Raging Wars, Soaring Hunger Put Women and Girls in Crosshairs, Warns UN

"A toxic mix of crises—conflicts, climate, skyrocketing costs, and the ripple effects of the Ukraine war—are inflicting a devastating toll on the forcibly displaced. This is being felt across the world, but women and girls are particularly suffering."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo