Last summer I read a guest editorial, Time’s up, CO2 in Science magazine (2 Aug 2019), the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The author, Dr. Marcia, McNutt, is president of the most important scientific body in our country, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Her one-page essay began with a look over her shoulder at a scientific meeting that had been held 40 years earlier in Woods Hole, Mass. That group, which had been led by Jule Charney, MIT, had projected that “atmospheric CO2 concentrations would reach double the preindustrial values sometime in the first half of the 21st century” and that “average global surface temperatures would increase by 3C +/- 1.5C.” McNutt then added, “Fast-forward to 2019, and these calculations of the sensitivity of climate to doubling of CO2 have proven to be remarkably on target.”
Unfortunately, far too many of us, scientists included, weren’t paying attention to the science back in 1979. But that short-sighted view has been changing for some years now. It’s time to demand that institutions of higher education catch up to the science and realize that “business as usual” is a global suicide pact for humanity.
I attended the Reed Union discussion of climate change and divestment last Thursday and I learned that Reed College currently has no plans to divest. Believe me, we have scientists on our Board of Trustees. Right at the very top. And concerned faculty and student have been asking the College to give up its investments in the fossil fuel industry for years. But these pleas, not to mention a scientific case that has been building for 40 years and more, continue to fall on ears that cannot hear, eyes that cannot see. It’s still business as usual at Reed College.
Fortunately, there is cause for hope. A quick online search today highlighted several colleges that have heard the “Time’s up, CO2” call. A year ago Middlebury College promised that they would divest their $1 billion dollar endowment over the next 15 years. Smith College followed suit last October. And just last week, while we sat in discussion at the Reed Union, mighty Georgetown University announced its own plan for phased divestment over the next 10 years. Reed is still unmoved, but one must hope.
In the meantime, dear reader, my advice is to remember that what you spend on education today is an investment in your future tomorrow. It is an investment in realizing your potential as a human being. It is one part of a life-long strategy. So make a wise choice. Before you give your money to any institution, make sure that it is committed to your tomorrow as well as your today. And speaking of “today”, go here to learn what college students in Massachusetts are doing today to secure their future, and ours.