Divestment Movement ‘Contrived, Organized Angst’ to 'Build Fervor Around Climate Change’

By Barbara Hollingsworth | November 10, 2015 | 1:38pm EST
Students at the University of Washington in Seattle urging the school to get rid of its fossil fuel investments. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) –  The fossil fuel divestment movement, which began at Swarthmore College in 2010 and is now active on more than a thousand college campuses, is “contrived, organized angst” and “a game of bluff” whose ultimate goal is to “build fervor around climate change,” according to a study released Tuesday by the National Association of Scholars (NAS).

“On the surface, it is an effort to get colleges to sell off their investments in coal, oil and gas. Its real goal is to radicalize students and stoke public support for drastic political and economic transformations,” the study stated.

It also claims that the fossil fuel divestment movement is “managed by professional activists” at 350.org and “driven by wealthy donors and deep-pocketed foundations” who are “using students and the colleges to advance their agenda at the Paris Climate talks.”

“As of Sept. 1, 2015, 44 colleges and universities worldwide have divested from fossil fuels,” according to the study – less than one percent of the world’s degree-granting institutions. “But fossil fuel investments affected by divestment decision comprise only about 1 percent of the total college endowment.”

“This is a publicity stunt,” study author Rachelle Peterson told CNSNews.com, adding that “the universities that have divested have had virtually no effect on the fossil fuel industry. On average, it’s about one percent of the endowment.”

“The premise is that burning fossil fuel energy causes climate change and the producers of fossil fuel energy are pretty much unilaterally guilty for that climate change. The deeper reason for the movement, though, is that divestment is really a political ploy,” she said.

“Divestment is a means to stigmatize an industry, scapegoat someone other than consumers, and to build political momentum for stricter climate legislation in the future.

“The most immediate aim right now is the UN climate summit in Paris this December, where activists are hoping for a very strong climate pact. And divestment really uses the universities as pawns in this larger political battle.”

Only 34 percent of colleges that claim they have purged their portfolios of fossil fuel investments have actually done so, according to the study, which also found that 86 percent of the endowments of divested colleges and universities were smaller than the national average.

And four schools, whom Peterson refers to as DINOs (“divestment in name only”) - Oxford University, Syracuse University, Humboldt State University, and the University of Otago Foundation Trust in New Zealand - have not sold a single fossil fuel investment since they publicly promised to divest, the study found.

Runner-up DINOs include Stanford, Hampshire College, Georgetown, and Concordia University in Quebec.

“Universities can do nothing at all and still call themselves divested and leaders in this climate movement,” Peterson told CNSNews.com. “This movement turns the university into a billboard for virtue signaling without doing anything at all.”

However, another 35 institutions of higher learning have rejected the movement’s demands to divest themselves of fossil fuel investments, including Swarthmore, Harvard, Brown, Vassar, MIT, and Cornell.

“The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change,” Harvard president Drew Faust explained in a 2013 statement.

“Divestment is a very convenient way for students to feel self-righteous about what they call ‘climate justice’ without actually having to pay the costs of reducing their own consumption, or using their electronic gadgets a little bit less,” Peterson told CNSNews.com.

Their assumption is “that they’re temporarily using fossil fuels for the cause of getting off fossil fuels. Even if we have to sit here with all our laptops and our iPhones tweeting about divestment, with all of them plugged into the wall, it’s worth it because divestment is going to change the situation for the future.”

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