February 19, 2016

Bill McKibben Testifies for State Divestment

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Bill McKibben testifies in front of the House and Senate Government Operations Committees


(Montpelier – Feb. 19) The time for change is now. Bill Mckibben testified in front of the House and Senate Government Operations Committees today, pleading for their consideration to divest the state’s pension funds. Removing fossil fuel based investments, he argued, is both ethically and financially responsible.

Early in his testimony, McKibben pointed out that, “the question is not whether one believes in climate change, but whether one understands the astonishing speed with which it is remaking the world.”

The reality that climate change is threatening global climatic functioning in a significant way is now widely accepted by scientists and politicians, however change is slow to follow.

McKibben cited a study by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), which determined that total fossil fuel reserves (coal, oil and gas) on Earth amount to 5,000 gigatons of carbon. However, in order to remain under a two degree increase in global temperatures, the desired level agreed upon at the Paris climate talks, we can collectively burn no more than 900 gigatons of carbon. Meaning that “if we burn any significant percentage of that carbon, the hope of avoiding climactic disaster is gone,” McKibben went on to explain. “This is not ideology, its physics!” McKibben exclaimed before the joint committee.

In regards to the state budget, McKibben attested to the great irony in state investments based in an industry that is causing the state great expense. For example, he pointed out the financial burden to the state due to poor winters reducing the rooms and meals tax collection, the cost of statewide recovery after Hurricane Irene, and the increasing medical costs of managing diseases such as Lyme, all of which are at least partially attributable to climate change impacts caused by the fossil fuel industry.

The arguments for divestment in the joint committee hearing were wide and varried, but all pointed to one conclusion. Vermont must act as soon as possible in making significant changes to the state’s investment portfolio in order to join the growing divestment movement that is working to devalue the fossil fuel sector.

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