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.
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."
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) April 14, 2015