Climate change is a more pressing issue than ever before, and it’s becoming a key part of political platforms. So, how does climate change affect policy and how does policy affect the environment? We’ll explore some of these issues in NBN Politics’ new series: Political Climate.
In 2017, a study found that 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Despite the impact big businesses have on the environment, many of them are doing little to mitigate the effects of climate change or lower their carbon emissions. In fact, many of them are taking advantage of the effects of climate change for profit.
As renewable energy sources become more affordable, companies are jumping on the chance to lower their operating costs. A recent article in The New York Times Magazine’s climate issue highlighted Exxon’s new practice of using solar energy to power their fracking process, which is a way to extract oil or gas from the ground, so these businesses have many ways of profiting. The same article also recounts an instance of a real estate manager buying hotels before Hurricane Harvey to take advantage of people who needed short-term housing. Ultimately, companies and people in power aren’t thinking in the long term: they’re thinking in terms of current profits.
Some politicians are now signing the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, which is a commitment to abstain from taking contributions of over $200 from fossil fuel companies. As of now, 11 presidential candidates have signed the pledge including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Pete Buttigieg. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among the many congressional signers.
Besides voting for political candidates who support regulations and policies that protect the environment, Northwestern students can play a role on campus and take a stand against corporations that rely on gas and coal. Fossil Free NU is a student environmental advocacy group that wants Northwestern to divest from companies such as Glencore, Noble Energy, BP and many more. However, this list of corporations does not include Northwestern’s indirect investments in fossil fuels through commingled funds, which are a type of investment with assets from different corporations.
Leo Gallagher, a member of Fossil Free NU who graduated from the School of Communication in Winter 2019, defined divestment as “taking our money out of companies that produce fossil fuels.”
After divesting from these companies, Fossil Free NU insists that Northwestern reinvest in “non-fossil fuel companies, with a particular emphasis on investment in renewable energies and energy efficiency,” according to the first draft of their proposal. Fossil Free NU is currently in the process of revising the proposal before sending it to the Board of Trustees.
“People are saying that divestment at a school-level isn’t going to do that much in climate change,” said Gallagher. “To that, I say, one, it’s something that we can do at Northwestern, and people are always asking what we can do about climate change, and I think it’s important to do everything that are you able to do, and divestment is one of those things. The other part of it is that it sends a political message, as Northwestern is a leading institution and inclined to tackle climate change.”