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November 24, 2014

Opinion: Staking Out Sides on Fossil-Fuel Divestment

Dueling Wall Street Journal opinion pieces lay out the case for and against college and university endowments dropping their investments in fossil-fuel industries. Institutions of higher education have some $22-billion invested in energy and natural resources, but campus-based divestment movements have gained steam, with Stanford University opting in May to sell off coal stocks and a group of students suing Harvard over the issue last week.

Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, argues that organizations have a moral obligation to fight climate change and that shifting capital to climate-friendly technologies will put pressure on politicians to tackle the issue and encourage innovation in clean energy. Robert N. Stavins, professor of business and government at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, calls divestment a symbolic gesture that will neither hurt fossil-fuel companies financially nor curb greenhouse-gas emissions. He says universities can do more to fight climate change through teaching and research.

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy article about Divest-Invest Philanthropy, a network of foundations founded by Ms. Dorsey that have pledged to stop investing in fossil fuels.