Universities must reject fossil fuel cash for climate research, academics say.

Universities must stop receiving funding from fossil fuel companies to conduct climate research, even if the research is aimed at developing green and low-carbon technologies, says an influential group of eminent academics.

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, Peter Kalmas, a NASA data scientist, and Michael Mann, a prominent U.S. climate scientist, are among about 500 academics in the United States and the United Kingdom who have written an open letter to university leaders in both countries. , Urging them to reject all funding from fossil fuel companies.

Receiving money from fossil fuels represents an “inherent conflict of interest” and could “stigmatize” the necessary research and “compromise” academic independence, they wrote. For the companies, it was an opportunity to “wash the green” of their reputation and skew the research results in their favor.

The letter compares the tobacco industry and its misleading propaganda, noting that numerous public health and research organizations have rejected tobacco funding for this reason and called for fossil fuel cash to be treated similarly.

“The research that universities and they are doing is faster than fossil fuels, just as vital for change. However, such efforts are undermined by funding from the fossil fuel industry. Academics should not be forced to choose between researching climate solutions and inadvertently aiding corporate greenwashing, “the signatories wrote.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told the Guardian: “Such funds have been used to compromise with leading academic institutions. While doing so often advocates false solutions and translates prescriptions like giant carbon capture as ‘kick the can down the road’, which is unproven on scale, and geoengineering, which is absolutely dangerous.

Genevieve Guenther, founder and director of the Climate Silence Campaign and an affiliate at New School University in New York, said: The activity hides. We must remove fossil-energy interests from our organization so that our children can have a chance at a living future. “

Universities have been under pressure from their students and some academics for years to remove their investments, such as pension funds and endowments, away from fossil fuels, and many have done so. However, this is the first major call from senior educators to go further and sever all research ties with fossil fuel companies.

Universities have no clear idea of ​​how much money they receive from fossil fuel companies, as most do not disclose their sources. An investigation by observers last year found that UK universities had taken at least ৮ 69 million from oil companies in the previous four years.

Some scientists disagree with the letter. James Hansen, a former chief scientist at NASA and one of the first scientists to warn the government about the impending climate crisis, told the Guardian: To lead a solution. “

Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics’ Climate Change and the Environment, said it would be reasonable for universities to accept funding from fossil fuels if those businesses were truly committed to transformation. “Fossil fuel companies who are truly committed to change [to a low-carbon economy], Including net zero emissions, can and should receive help from university researchers, especially with the development of technologies for carbon capture and storage, renewable and emission reduction. However, universities should be wary of receiving direct or indirect funding from oil, gas and coal companies who are not committed to real clean energy change and who are trying to green their reputation. “

A spokesman for Imperial College London, who observed that Observer had received 54 54 million from oil companies since 2017, said: “Decarbonization is our highest priority when working with energy companies. Models need to be radically changed. We are using our influence and expertise to accelerate this change and actively engage with energy companies to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Displays. “

Some academics argue that fossil fuel funds are needed to develop the technology needed for a low-carbon economy, and that if Western universities reject such funds, they will be accepted in other parts of the world.

Guenther disagreed: “It’s a myth that fossil-energy companies are spending a lot of money on green transformation.” According to the IEA’s 2021 Global Energy Investment Report, only 1% of the capital expenditure of fossil-energy companies is devoted to research, development or installation of technologies that either reduce or not produce greenhouse gas emissions. “

Later this month, an intergovernmental panel on climate change will publish a third part of a comprehensive review of climate science examining possible ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will include technologies such as renewable energy and nuclear energy, as well as innovative ideas for absorbing carbon dioxide from the air.

The report will shed light on possible technological solutions to the climate crisis, which would require tens or hundreds of billions of pounds of funding to bring to market and be widely deployed around the world.

Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist who signed the letter, said the funds should come from the government. “The United States and the United Kingdom are among the richest countries in the world and their governments enjoy complete financial sovereignty. At the touch of a button they have the ability to fund many times for the research they need. Most major innovations and public projects that have changed history Heikel, a professor of environmental science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and a Fellow of the LSE.

The letter did not specify whether companies interested in fossil fuels should be included in the sanctions in the larger portfolio. Ilana Cohen, a Harvard student who led the organization of the letter, said it was directed at the top 200 fossil fuel companies.

Cohen said organizers are currently limiting the call to universities in the United States and the United Kingdom because many fossil fuel companies here are concentrating their funds, but this could be widened for future global efforts.

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