MIT focus on engagement with industry a clear alternative to environmental movement’s focus on conflict

MIT says it is joining the fight against climate change, but rather than divesting from fossil fuel companies, MIT plans to engage with them to mitigate the “risk of catastrophic outcomes.”

MIT

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.

Eco-activist Bill McKibben and 350.org have been leading a campaign to have colleges worldwide remove 200 publicly traded companies – including BP, Exxon Mobil, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Statoil, and Total – from their investment portfolios.  Fossil Free MIT gathered 3,400 signatures in support of purging these companies from the school’s $13.5 billion endowment.

But MIT chose a different strategy.

“We believe that divestment — a dramatic public disengagement — is incompatible with the strategy of engagement with industry to solve problems that is at the heart of today’s plan. Combatting climate change will require intense collaboration across the research community, industry and government,” the plan states.

Engagement with industry, collaboration on solutions, helping to achieve a “pragmatic transition plan to achieve a zero-carbon global energy system” – MIT’s approach is completely opposed to that of McKibben and his environmentalist supporters, which is to isolate and cripple industry, hoping that the new “clean energy” and “clean industries” can fill the gap.

MIT

Robert Millard, chairman of the MIT Corporation.

But what if they can’t? What if wind, solar and the related technologies (e.g. utility-scale battery storage) needed to make them viable aren’t ready and won’t be fully mature for decades?

And how, for instance, do you take internal combustion engine cars off the road and replace them with electric vehicles when the capital cost of EVs and the limited range of EV batteries are serious impediments to the adoption of the new technology?

The MIT plan acknowledges the seriousness of climate change and the urgent need to devise a fix, noting that “humanity must reorder the global energy status quo.”

Its five-year plan addresses five areas of climate action:

  • research to further understand climate change and advance solutions to mitigate and adapt to it
  • the acceleration of low-carbon energy technology via eight new research centers
  • the development of enhanced educational programs on climate change
  • new tools to share climate information globally
  • measures to reduce carbon use on the MIT campus

The MIT plan is a clear alternative to the divisive, conflict-oriented, sterile strategies of the international environmental movement.

This is the kind of plan American industry should get behind, the kind of plan more American colleges and universities should adopt. And the kind of plan American governments should support with sound policy, resources, and political support.

Robert Millard, chairman of the MIT Corporation, calls the plan “bold, respectful, complete, honest, and well-reasoned. It therefore reflects…the highest aspirations of MIT.”

I agree. Let’s hope MIT serves as a model for many more American institutions of higher learning.