The Tide is Turning

By Alec Connon

One year ago, in September 2014, the fossil fuel divestment movement was the fastest growing divestment movement in history. Back then, some 181 institutions and 656 individuals worth a total of $50 billion had committed to divesting from the fossil fuel industry. That was impressive—people were already sitting up and taking notice. Today, however, but one year later, the divestment movement has exploded beyond all expectation: 434 institutions and 2,040 individuals representing over $2.6 trillionin investment capital have now committed to removing their funds from the fossil fuel industry

For the first time in a long time, I am writing about the climate fight with a smile on my face: In many important ways, we are starting to win.

The IPCC has stated unequivocally that to have even a 50{1d75e8f25fec215e440cf5587fba0084dfe6311a478415999852653b1ef72edb} chance of remaining below the 2˚C warming threshold (past which climate change will almost undoubtedly become truly catastrophic) we must remove $30 billion a year from the fossil fuel industry and invest $147 billion more every year in the renewable sector. And the incredible thing is, for the moment at least, it looks as if we are achieving that.

But the fight is far from over. 2015 is already by far the hottest year on record. Parts of the Amazon rainforest are already turning into savannah. Coral reefs in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific have already started to wilt, the oceans are already warmer, more acidic and less full of life than they have been in millions of years. We are already seeing climate refugees throughout the world; a massive drought was one of the precipitating factors in the civil war that is tearing Syria apart. Closer to home, we see superstorms devastate cities such as New Orleans and New York with ever-increasing regularity and our largest state, California, enters the fourth year of a devastating drought. Even here in Washington, climate change has already come home to roost: our annual snowpack has deserted us, our drinking water levels are dangerously low, and the largest wildfires in our history scorch our lands and burn our homes.

And so as we face perhaps the gravest threat ever faced by humankind we must continue to push more organizations, more individuals and more institutions to stand up and say that it is no longer okay to profit from the demise of our planet. “Now is the time to divest and invest,” wrote Leonardo Di Caprio yesterday, announcing that he had divested his own personal fortune, “to let our world leaders know that we, as individuals and institutions, are taking action to address climate change, and we expect them to do their part in Paris,”

The fossil fuel divestment movement is the fastest growing divestment movement in history, the momentum is with us, and we are winning the argument…but imagine what a boost it would be if the world’s largest, most influential charitable foundation were to join those 434 other institutions in standing up, before Paris, and saying that it was no longer okay to profit from the demise of our planet?

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