climate changeenvironmentenvironmental sciencesustainability Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time. The stakes for our planet have never been higher: the world is warming, impacting communities across the globe. Barnard graduates are entering a world in which all of us must grapple with the scientific, environmental, health, and economic challenges posed by climate change. As an academic institution, Barnard must prepare its students to meet these challenges and ensure they are equipped to help identify solutions to climate change that are grounded in scientific evidence. The College is accomplishing this task through a three-fold strategy:
Finding evidence-based solutions to the problems posed by climate change by Barnard’s world-class faculty with students (see here and here for more information on faculty and alumnae engaging in this work);
Building on Barnard’s already strong foundation to become more sustainable and reduce its own carbon emissions; and
Divesting the endowment from fossil fuel companies that misrepresent or in other ways sow misinformation about the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and human activity causes it.
Divestment: Where we started
In December 2015, Barnard’s Board of Trustees authorized the formation of the Presidential Task Force to Examine Divestment. The creation of the Task Force followed several months of conversations among students, faculty, administrators, and the Board on how best to address the College’s relationship with fossil fuels. In March 2017, the Task Force recommended, and the Board agreed, that the College divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies that “deny climate science or who otherwise seek to thwart efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change.” The Task Force concluded that climate change represents a real threat to the environment and that Barnard, as a global citizen and an organization that educates future leaders, needs to do its part to mitigate its impact. For years some fossil fuel companies and their advocates have questioned the settled science that human activity is causing changes to our climate. By sowing misinformation about climate science, some in the industry obstruct scientific progress and hinder efforts for society to find solutions to the challenges posed by climate change.
In making this decision, the Board considered not only the research of the Task Force but the overwhelming consensus of the students, faculty, and alumnae that the College take action in light of the impacts of climate change.
The Board of Trustees also agreed that focusing on companies that question or misrepresent climate science is consistent with our mission as an academic institution. Barnard College is devoted to the free flow of information, the furtherance of research that produces new knowledge, and the use of evidence to inform and find solutions to serious public policy issues such as climate change. In this regard, the Task Force noted that “investing in companies that actively distort climate science findings, deceive the public, or block efforts to accelerate a transition to a cleaner economy constitutes an affront to Barnard’s mission as an academic institution.” By divesting holdings in companies that question settled science, Barnard is aligning its