Letter to the Editor of The New York Times, 2/24/20

Re “Why Hasn’t Harvard Stopped Investing in Fossil Fuels?,” by Devi Lockwood (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, Jan. 29):

In 2013, responding to student and alumni demands that Harvard divest from fossil fuel companies, Drew Gilpin Faust, then the president of Harvard, favored “engagement over withdrawal.” In 2019, Lawrence Bacow, the current president, wrote that Harvard still prefers “engaging with industry” to divestment.

During those six years, global temperature and carbon dioxide emissions rose in concert, and extreme weather events increased in number and intensity. Scientists agreed that global warming is due to human activities, and the United States joined and then withdrew from the Paris climate accord.

Harvard would have to conclude that its strategy has not worked. This is no surprise, since the university has [disclosed] only some $5.6 million invested in fossil fuel companies, a drop in the bucket of the budgets of the giant fossil fuel companies.

The fundamental principle of endowment management is that future student generations should benefit to the same extent as the current generation. By investing in the very companies whose products cause dangerous global warming, Harvard violates that principle and bets that it can profit from the success of those companies.

But the more they succeed, the more humanity, its universities and its future alumni will lose.

James L. Powell
Buellton, Calif.

The writer, a former college president, is the author of the forthcoming book “The 2084 Report: An Oral History of the Great Warming.”

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