MIT has taken a bold step on the issue of climate change, that critics say ignores an appeal by thousands of students and faculty to divest, first and foremost, from fossil fuel companies.
The Institutes' approach on how to best reduce the risk of climate change rests squarely on the shoulders of MIT President Rafael Reif.
In a letter to the MIT community, Reif announced his decision to do something different and innovative, (see letter below) following a student movement in February 2014 called, “Fossil Free MIT,” in which students and faculty demanded MIT divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies.
MIT’s Vice President for Research Maria Zuber tells WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay although MIT made a decision not to divest, the movement was the genesis for the Institute’s Plan For Action on Climate Change.
On October 21, 2015 MIT, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific institutions, revealed its five-year plan to confront climate change. (See timeline below)
The Institute developed a multi-faceted plan of action aimed at fighting climate change by spending millions of dollars for low-carbon research, advocating for carbon pricing, and calling for help from its 130-thousand alumni.
While the plan stops short of divestiture from the fossil fuel industry, Zuber tells WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay, it was decided, “the one thing MIT could most effectively do to address climate change is research.” She says, “MIT is a top institution that is humble enough to know it cannot do it alone. “
“Climate change is a complex problem, its a global problem and requires all the smart people in academic research institutions, governments that make policy and industry that has most of the talent to bring about a global solution,” according to Zuber.
The plan called for research of an optimal mix of energy sources, establish policy and economic incentives, and clear technological goals to achieve success.
In making the announcement not to divest, President Reif called upon all members of the MIT community to take action and learn how the institute plans to execute the plan.
Members of the Fossil Free MIT movement dissatisfied with Reif's plan of action, staged a sit-in outside the President's office, to protest his decision not to divest. According to the organization's Facebook page, the group says in part, "MIT's divestment decision, part of its Plan for Action on Climate change, flies in the face of over 3,500 petition signatures from MIT community members, the recommendations of the MIT President's own committee to divest from coal, tar sands, and climate denying corporations, a resolution from Cambridge City Council and separate open letters from MIT student groups, faculty and alumni."
To listen to the entire extended interview with MIT VP Zuber and WGBH’s Bob Seay click on the audio file above.