By Jake Simm
As a generation we’ve all grown up facing the potential future threat of climate change. In the past few weeks, that threat has become ever more apparent with a number of tropical storms and natural disasters affecting large swathes of continents across the globe. According to statistics from NASA, 2016 was the hottest year since 1880. NASA modelling also shows average global temperature has risen by 1 degree since the mid 20th century, taking us ever closer to the 1.5 degree limit that our world leaders agreed to limit global warming to in the Paris conference in 2015.
Yet, in the face of such overwhelming scientific fact and opinion, Trump has posited several challenges to the landmark agreement. The evidence for climate change is undeniable, 97% of scientists agree that it is real. However, despite knowing about climate change for decades, some politicians still refute its impact and we are still pumping more and more carbon into the atmosphere.
Recently however, there is evidence that we are making a transition towards a more sustainable future. Here in the UK over the last decade we have seen coal fall out of favour and be replaced by renewable energy like wind and solar power, as these technologies become increasingly efficient. Recent data also shows that in 2016, global CO2 emissions didn’t increase on the last year. However, there is still a lot to do if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Whilst the use of renewables is increasing, the awareness and affordability of such technology needs to be addressed. These steps will almost surely result in greater advancements in the transformation to a more sustainable world.
Research shows that just 90 companies are responsible for two thirds of all man made climate change. Oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon mobile top this list. Since fossil companies’ business models are based on extracting and burning as many fossil fuels as possible, our transition to a renewable economy can not happen while these companies hold the amount of economic and political power which they currently do. Equality and morality are basic ideals, but they are ones that have been completely disparaged by the actions of these companies. How can so few cause so much damage for so many? This is why campaigners have been targeting these companies through ‘fossil fuel divestment’.
Divestment has proved to be a successful way of targeting unethical parts of the economy before, helping to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. Many public bodies such as universities, have funds where they invest money to make profit of shares they hold, often this money is invested in the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel divestment calls for our public bodies to move any money they have invested in fossil fuel companies elsewhere. It is hoped that this will speed up the transition to a more renewable future.
The fossil fuel divestment movement has been the fastest growing divestment movement in history and at the moment the total amount divested from universities alone stands at over £80 billion pounds. In the UK over a third of universities have already divested and around half of all Russell group universities have done so. The campaign by People and Planet is aiming to achieve divestment from the fossil fuel industry by Cardiff University by petitioning the COO through sending emails, something students, and staff, can do themselves.
It’s the duty of everyone to help combat the catastrophic impacts of climate change, especially when the opportunity to do so is one that is handed to people on a plate! The flows of money to the fossil fuel industry need to end if we truly are to see the possibility of a more sustainable, renewable planet come to fruition in our lifetime.