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Why Universities Are Divesting From Fossil Fuels

In recent years, students and scholars have addressed this issue through protests and op-eds, leading prominent universities like Harvard to divest from fossil fuel investment. Other academics argue that divestment is not the most effective way to incite sustainable action and may, as a result, harm universities. Despite their differences, both sides of this argument conclude that universities are responsible for conducting climate research, developing green technologies, and promoting sustainable practice.

Some believe universities that cut ties with the fossil fuel industry will result in a lack of funding to conduct further climate research. In addition, divesting from fossil fuel investment would mean "to give up their seat at the table" because large investors would have a say in the future of fossil fuels and would have the power to incite change. By divesting, universities are cutting themselves off from a 2.5 trillion dollar industry without removing a single oil barrel from being burned into the atmosphere.

With this in mind, several compelling arguments exist for divesting. The first is that divesting is not just empty symbolism because it takes away the "social license" that fossil fuel companies gain from investing in climate research- this is called greenwashing. Without the greenwashed label, the public can more easily address the damage these companies cause to the environment as an urgent issue that scholars in the field of climate science do not condone. Another argument is that it is essential for universities in particular not to engage with the fossil fuel industry because they are expected to be the foundation of the green economy and thus should be branding themselves as "zero-carbon." Additionally, NYU conducted a study to see the financial impact of divestment on universities. They found that three of the four universities studied faced no financial repercussions for cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry. Despite arguments against divestment, it appears that Universities are taking the leap towards a greener future.


1) First-Arai, L. (2022). How the Oil and Gas Industry is Trying to Hold US Public Schools Hostage. The Guardian. Retrieved from,

2) Greenfield, M. (2021). Pros and Cons of University Divestment from Fossil Fuels. University World News. Retrieved from,

3) Harvey, F. (2022). Universities Must Reject Fossil Fuel Cash for Climate Research, Say Academics. The Guardian. Retrieved from,

4) McGreal, C. (2022). Yale, Stanford and MIT’s Fossil Fuel Investments are Illegal, Students Say. The Guardian. Retrieved from,

5) Treisman, R. (2021). Harvard University Will Stop Investing In Fossil Fuels After Years Of Public Pressure. NPR. Retrieved from,


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