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Georgetown Cites Global Environmental Challenges’ as It Divests From Fossil Fuels

This statue of Georgetown University’s founder, Bishop John Carroll, greets students at the Washington campus entrance. (Photo: CNS)

By Christopher White, National Correspondent

NEW YORK — Over the next 10 years, Georgetown University will divest from fossil fuels – a move heralded by Catholic environmental activists as putting Pope Francis’s ecological vision into action.

The announcement was made the week of Feb. 3 following a vote by the Jesuit institution’s board of directors. The decision allows the university to divest from public securities tied to fossil fuels over the next five years and private investments over the next ten years.

In announcing the decision, the university said they would make investments that “target a market rate of return in renewable energy, energy efficiency and related areas while freezing new endowment investments in companies or funds whose primary business is the exploration or extraction of fossil fuels.”

The vote, taken Feb. 6, comes after a proposal from GU Fossil Free that was sent to the university’s Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility, which ultimately made the recommendation to the university’s board.

“Animated by our Catholic and Jesuit identity, our University has sought to strengthen opportunities for our community to contribute to a more sustainable future by fostering dialogue, research, education, and the engagement of all members of our community,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia in a statement following the announcement.

“This decision by our board of directors advances the deep commitment we have to sustainability and our efforts to respond to urgent global environmental challenges,” he continued.

In another statement, Michael Barry, Georgetown’s chief investment officer, said that their endowment has already benefited in recent years from investments in renewable energy projects and described the board’s vote as another sign of the university’s commitment to sustainability.

“Climate change, in addition to threatening our planet, is increasing the risk of investing in oil and gas companies, as we expect a more volatile range of financial outcomes,” said Barry.

“We will continue to evaluate the efforts of these companies, and be hopeful that many will move further toward contributing to a sustainable future,” he said.

While the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities does not have an official policy on sustainability, they have previously applauded Catholic institutions that have taken similar steps. In 2014, the University of Dayton became the first Catholic university in the country to divest from fossil fuels, and in September 2018, Seattle University became the first Jesuit institution to do so, voting to divest over a five year period.

Since Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ was issued calling for fossils fuels to “be progressively replaced without delay,” hundreds of Catholic institutions around the globe have chosen to divest from companies tied to fossil fuels and pursue more ethical investments.

John Carr, director of Georgetown’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, who serves as a member of the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility told  The Tablet that he believes the vote to be “a great example of the ‘Francis factor’ in action.”

“Laudato Sí offered principles, direction and urgency that brought Georgetown students, President DeGioia and the Board together in this leadership step to demonstrate care for God’s creation,” said Carr.

Christina Leaño, associate director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement told The Tablet that “these Catholic organizations see that investing in coal, oil, and natural gas isn’t just an unsustainable financial decision – it’s inherently incompatible with the values that we hold dear.”

“That’s why four bishops’ conferences, 12 archdioceses, 18 dioceses, Caritas Internationalis and seven national Caritas agencies, Catholic banks with more than €7 billion on their balance sheets, and dozens of religious orders and communities have divested,” she added.

Leaño described Georgetown’s vote as “a courageous decision to grapple with its past and move forward toward justice.”

“Our faith teaches us that hope is possible. As seas rise, deserts grow, and malarial mosquitoes spread, leadership like Georgetown’s is needed now more than ever,” she said.

Similarly, Dan Misleh, founding executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant said that while the organization does not have an official position on divestment, he applauds Georgetown for providing an “important witness.”

“I think this dialogue about the shape of our future, our children’s future, is so important,” Misleh told The Tablet. “For institutions to consider shifting investment strategies to support more sustainable ways to produce and conserve energy is critical for the long term health of our common home.”

2 thoughts on “Georgetown Cites Global Environmental Challenges’ as It Divests From Fossil Fuels

  1. To be ethically consistent will the university shut down all of its HVAC systems, shut off its boilers and heaters, go-to lighting by candle only. Will all the Jesuits and the students give up their autos and rever to transporting themselves only by foot or some device fueled only with green energy, If not then this is merely an empty action.

  2. Why Global Warming/Climate Change Is a Hoax
    By David Roemer, Ph.D. (http://www.newevangelization.info)
    1) Carbon dioxide is a trace gas in the atmosphere. 1% of the atmosphere is Argon and there is 25 times more Argon than carbon dioxide. If the sun is shining, a field of corn will use up all the carbon dioxide in 5 minutes. The corn will stop growing unless wind blows new air into the field.
    2) 97% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from human and animal respiration, outgassing from oceans in tropical areas, the decay of ground bacteria, volcanoes, and forest fires. Only 3% comes from humans burning coal, oil, and natural gas.
    3) We are in the fifth ice age because the north and south poles are covered with ice sheets. This ice age started 2.58 million years ago. For 260 million years before this, the Earth was warmer. The first ice age began 2.4 billion years ago.
    4) In the current ice age, there have been six periods of warmth (called interglacials) and cold (called glacials). The latest cycle was the Medieval Warm Period followed by the Little Ice Age. Humans began burning a lot of fossil fuels at the end of the Little Ice Age. The Roman Warm Period occurred 2,000 years ago. The Younger Dryas was a return to glacial conditions about 12,000 years ago.
    5) At night a desert is much colder than the tropics. In the tropics, 4% of the atmosphere is water vapor, but humidity is much less in a desert. Water vapor is called a “greenhouse gas” because it absorbs infrared radiation.
    6) An example of radiation having a warming effect because of its interaction with a gas occurs in the stratosphere, which is an atmospheric layer 12 miles above the Earth’s surface. Ultraviolet radiation and solar wind interact with gas molecules causing the molecules to break up. The molecular components separate with high kinetic energies. It is the kinetic energy of molecules that determines temperature. Temperature does not increase when a molecule absorbs infrared radiation.
    7) Water vapor absorbs and emits infrared radiation. Some of the emitted radiation goes into outer space and some is re-absorbed by the Earth’s surface. However, if an excited water vapor molecule collides with another molecule, there can be a conversion to kinetic energy. The energy of an infrared photon is 60 times less than the energy of an ultraviolet photon, so the warming effect of absorbing infrared photons is much less than the warming effect produced by ultraviolet photons in the stratosphere. There are many possible reasons temperatures in the tropics are higher than in a desert at night. Soil moisture accounts for 0.001 % of all the water on Earth. When water evaporates from the soil, the soil cools and the air warms. Wind also is a factor. I don’t think scientists know how much of the warming in the tropics at night is due to water vapor’s absorption of infrared radiation.
    8) Carbon dioxide also absorbs infrared radiation, as does methane. There is about 25 times more water vapor in the atmosphere at the Earth’s surface than carbon dioxide. There is 200 times more carbon dioxide than methane, but methane absorbs more wavelengths of infrared radiation than carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide only absorbs 16% of the infrared wavelengths produced by the Earth. Methane absorbs much more wavelengths.
    9) The conversion to heat when “greenhouse gases” absorb infrared radiation is not a linear process. If all the infrared radiation is being absorbed by these gases, there is no warming effect caused by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide.
    10) Governments in the United States have spent about 40 billion dollars subsidizing solar and wind energy to produce electricity even though solar energy is four times as expensive as fossil fuels and wind energy is twice as expensive. In Germany, because of the investment in solar and wind energy, electricity costs three times what it costs in the U.S. India and China have increased their use of fossil fuels because of all the benefits derived from inexpensive electricity. In the United States, as a result of the $40 billion expenditure, 2% of electricity is now produced by solar and wind energy.
    11) The Climatic Research Unit email controversy (also known as “Climategate”) and the hockey stick controversy about the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age shows that the scientists implicated in these scandals can’t be trusted.
    12) Conclusion: It is obvious that the 40 billion dollars spent was a waste of money and that citizens in the U.S. were tricked into allowing governments to do this.

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