UCSD Faculty Call on UC Regents to Divest from Fossil Fuels

UCSD’s Academic Senate passed a resolution on May 17 urging the UC Board of Regents to divest from companies “whose primary business concerns the extraction and sale of fossil fuels.” This makes UCSD the second UC campus, after UC Santa Barbara, to pass a resolution of this kind.

UCSD professor of neuroscience and a leader of the Fossil Free UC campaign Eric Halgren told the UCSD Guardian that the primary motivation for passing this resolution is the negative impact that burning fossil fuels has on the environment.

“The carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere will remain there for hundreds of years,” Halgren told the UCSD Guardian. “About 80% of the [carbon-based fuel sources] in the ground will have to stay there, or cities home to hundreds of millions of people will be underwater, literally millions of species will go extinct, and billions of people will be exposed to extreme weather events including famine-creating droughts and devastating hurricanes and flooding.”

Halgren added that as a result of the growing awareness of the causes and effects of climate change, the value of fossil fuel stocks are decreasing, causing investors to lose money.

“Eventually, these stocks will lose their value, as coal stocks already have, and the University of California’s investments in them will become close to worthless,” Halgren said. “[For example] the other California state retirement investment funds lost around $840 million when they sold their coal stocks, and have lost about $5.1 billion on fossil fuel stocks overall.”

The money from these investments supports the retirement pensions of UC employees as well as the endowments that pay for many scholarships, among other things.

UCSD psychology professor Adam Aron, another leader of the Fossil Free UC campaign, explained that in order to convince the UC Regents to stop investing in fossil fuel companies, more action must be taken by all of the UC schools.

“It’s not a question of UCSD investments, but of UC investments,” Aron explained to the Guardian. “[The UC system] is very unlikely to divest just because faculty at UCSB and UCSD [and UCSC] voted yes on this, but if most or all schools do, then that increases the likelihood.”

UC Santa Cruz faculty also passed a resolution on May 18 requesting the Regents to stop investing in fossil fuel companies. In 2013,  Associated Students at all eight UC campuses passed similar resolutions and petitioned the UC Regents to divest from fossil fuels, but the UC Office of the President rejected the petition, calling it too restrictive.

Muir College junior Mukta Kelkar, who serves as the co-director of the UCSD Student Sustainability Collective, argued that students are indirectly supporting the fossil fuel investment because some of the money that is invested into the companies comes from our tuition.

“UCSD students pay tuition and fees that then go into an endowment fund governed by the UC Regents, who then invest that money,” Kelkar says. “When the University of California divests from fossil fuels, the tuition and fees students pay will no longer be invested in companies that are destroying our planet.”

Senior Erin McMullen, who also serves as co-director of the SSC, added that the money we currently invest in fossil fuel companies can be redirected towards renewable energy companies.

Students who are interested in supporting this initiative can sign the petition at www.fossilfreeucsd.org or like the Fossil Free UCSD Facebook page. They can also attend Student Sustainability Collective meetings at the Sustainability Resource Center next to Price Center Theater.