Energy & Environment

More than 500 academics call on universities to stop accepting research funding from fossil fuel industry

AP Photo/Martin Meissner

A group of more than 500 academics on Monday called on American and British universities to ban accepting funding for climate research from fossil fuel companies.

In the letter, signatories wrote that accepting such funding undermined the academic integrity of the research it enables.

“To be clear, our concern is not with the integrity of individual academics. Rather, it is with the systemic issue posed by the context in which academics must work, one where fossil fuel industry funding can taint critical climate-related research,” the letter states.

The writers compared accepting fossil fuel funding to public health researchers accepting money from the tobacco industry, which numerous institutions already have a policy of rejecting. Those policies, they write, are based on not only the conflict of interest but also the tobacco industry’s history of obfuscating the link between its product and health issues.

The letter draws a parallel between this misinformation and the fossil fuel industry’s own history of obscuring the link between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change. In a hearing of the House Oversight Committee last year, Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) repeatedly questioned fossil fuel executives on whether they had knowingly obscured this link, which all the witnesses denied.

Signers of the letter included activist and philosopher Cornel West, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann.

“It’s time for universities to stop selling their credibility to polluters,” Mann told The Hill in a statement.
“Taking money from fossil fuel companies to support climate and energy research is a bit like taking money from Russia to study American cyber-security.”

The letter comes amid an ongoing campaign to pressure universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. In one of that effort’s highest-profile victories thus far, Harvard University announced last September that it would pull its $42 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Cornel West Fossil fuels Michael Mann Rowan Williams university funding

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