Are Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns Working? A Conversation With Economist Robert Pollin

Students and alumni at Tufts University protest near the Tufts University presidents office in Medford, Mass. on April 22, 2015 and began a sit-in that they said would continue until the administration commits to fossil fuel divestment. (Photo: David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)Students and alumni at Tufts University protest near the Tufts University presidents office in Medford, Mass. on April 22, 2015, and began a sit-in that they said would continue until the administration commits to fossil fuel divestment. (Photo: David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Is fossil fuels divestment an effective strategy in tackling climate change? A newly released study by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst suggests that this strategy is not sufficient on its own in affecting the global battle against climate change and that new approaches are needed. Robert Pollin, a distinguished professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, co-director of PERI and co-author of the study spoke to C.J. Polychroniou about the limits of the movement to divest from fossil fuels and the need for fresh approaches and a more holistic type of action for combatting climate change.

C. J. Polychroniou: Climate change is one of the most significant threats facing human civilization today. According to some projections, there is a very high probability that temperatures will rise by several degrees in less than 100 years. In that context, and given that the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions stems from burning fossil fuels, mitigating the effects of climate change demands a transition to clean energy sources. Yet adapting to climate change does not seem to be an easy undertaking for modern societies, although the hidden costs of climate change run already into hundreds of billions of dollars a year. In your view, why is it that we are ignoring the costs associated with climate change?

Robert Pollin: I don’t think it is accurate to say that “we” are ignoring the costs associated with climate change. The evidence on the effects of climate change are widely known and are getting increasingly understood with time. Millions of people around the world are committed to disseminating valuable…

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