Fossil Free RI targets higher education


Fossil Free Rhode Island fights for fossil free:
Hey, folks, unless we act now,
The globe, our home, will boil.
Divest! Divest from coal,
and from tar sand, gas and oil.

Over the last three years, public campaigns to divest from coal, oil, and gas companies have emerged on more than 300 college campuses across North America. Fossil Free Rhode Island (FFRI),  is part of this national movement and is officially kicking off its campaign this week.

FFRI is an organization made up of students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members and has been collecting signatures from individuals and organizations for several weeks. Earlier this week, FFRI presented letters to the presidents of the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, the Community College of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Board of Education.

To commemorate the launch, Fossil Free RI will be hosting a “Night of Resistance” at the First Unitarian Church in Providence on Thursday, June 6th. There will be a screening of 350.org‘s Do the Math, which highlights the movement to take on the fossil fuel industry, followed by discussion on what can be done here in Rhode Island. The event will also feature updates from several groups involved with fossil fuel divestment and climate justice work, including: the Divest Coal Campaign at Brown University, Divest RISD, and 350 Massachusetts. The program starts at 6:30pm and is free and open to the public.
In these letters FFRI urges public higher education in Rhode Island to divest its endowments assets from fossil fuels.
The FFRI campaign is motivated by the following concerns:
  • It is an established fact that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to higher global temperatures.[1]
  • In 2008, Hansen and collaborators wrote: “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.”[2]
  • The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere recently reached 400 parts per million, higher than at any other time in recorded history.[3]
  • The average temperature in the U.S. has increased by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, with more than 80% of the increase occurring since 1980.[4]
  • During the middle of the 20th century, extreme weather events covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface. Shockingly, now 10% of its surface endures such events.[5]
  • The extraction and burning of fossil fuels are clearly and directly linked to climate change and extreme weather.
  • According to the World Health Organization, global warming causes 150,000 deaths and over five million illnesses a year, and these numbers could double by 2030.[6]
  • Responsible citizens must act now to preserve a livable planet for themselves, their children and future generations.
Education is an investment in the future, but there is no future unless educational institutions and humanity as a whole enact a fundamental change in their investment policies.
[1] The Discovery of Global Warming, http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm
[2] J. Hansen et al., Target atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim?, Open Atmos. Sci. J. (2008), vol. 2, 217 (http://arxiv.org/abs/0804.1126)
[4] Federal Advisory Committee Draft Climate Assessment Report Released for Public Review,
[5] James Hansen, et al., Perception of climate change,
[6] Third World bears brunt of global warming impacts, http://www.news.wisc.edu/11878#continue

(The material presented above is from a press release issued by Fossil Free Rhode Island)

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Peter Nightingale is a theoretical physicist and teaches at the University of Rhode Island. He strives to leave behind a more just and peaceful, sustainable post-capitalist world for future generations, and his children and grandchildren in particular.

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