To: Chancellor Arnold Eisen
Fossil Free Jewish Theological Seminary!
As public pressure to confront climate change builds, we, the undersigned, call on the Jewish Theological Seminary to immediately freeze its investments in fossil fuel companies, and to divest from the Carbon Underground 200 List (see reference below), companies that are in engaged in the extraction and production of fossil-fuels. We believe such an action will not only be a sound decision for our institution’s financial portfolio, but also for the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate into a world not defined by climate chaos. Further, as a leading voice in American Judaism, we believe that the Seminary has the opportunity to provide strong moral leadership on climate change, which will have a powerful ripple effect on the Jewish community. Such leadership would also provide a charged and symbolic example of humanity’s responsibility to each other, and to repairing our world.
While fossil fuel divestment is just a tactic in the fight for climate justice, this decision can have extraordinary impacts. Institutions from Morningside Heights to Palo Alto, California are divesting. Schools such as Stanford, Union Theological Seminary, and the New School have divested, so too have institutions such as the Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund (the largest investment portfolio on the planet) and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Fossil fuel companies are increasingly feeling the impacts of these actions; Peabody Coal’s 2014 annual report stated, “divestment efforts [are] affecting the investment community, which could significantly affect demand for our products or our securities.” It’s time for JTS to join this movement.
For the good of our students and our nation, and to preserve the quality of life for this and future generations worldwide, we call upon you to join a growing movement of schools around the country that are committed to preventing a more extreme climate by moving JTS’s endowment beyond fossil fuels.
Why is this important?
Climate change is accelerating. We are witness to the increasing impacts of anthropogenic warming on the planet; in this last year alone our country experienced record-breaking heat, droughts, and hurricanes, which impacted hundreds of thousands of people and cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars. The scientific community is unanimous in connecting the acceleration and intensification of these climate disasters to the burning of fossil fuels.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which includes more than 1,300 scientists from around the world, concur that warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius will cause irreparable, catastrophic damage to our world. Much of this damage will be felt by those least able to bear these burdens, and least responsible for warming the atmosphere. To remain below 2 degrees, we can release no more than 500 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Yet, fossil fuel companies such as Exxon, BP, and Peabody have over 2,795 gigatons of CO2 equivalent in reserve. These companies already have the financial impetus to surpass the 500 gigaton mark. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years.