This view from the CO2 timeline tool allows student leaders to show the expected tenure of key administration leaders (in gold) along with possible milestones in the student leaders’ own lives (in blue) on a century-long timeline. The shaded grey bar at the bottom of the graphic shows how much CO2 from a pulse released during thee student’s four years in college remains in the atmosphere throughout the century.
Youth climate leaders rightly argue that it is they – not current-day politicians, executives, and administrators – who will have to live with the consequences of today’s decisions when it comes to fossil fuel use. As these young people mobilize in hundreds of fossil fuel divestment campaigns we are excited to release a new tool designed to help them make their case powerfully, creatively, and rigorously.
- With the CO2 Timeline tool, a first year student making a presentation to a board of trustees can show, with accuracy and confidence, that at the time she reaches the age of retirement around 65% of the CO2 released during her four years in college will still be in atmosphere, by which time the trustees she is addressing will be 90-120 years old.
- Another youth leader could use the tool to find out how much CO2 from his college years will still be in the atmosphere around the time he would start a career (93%) or become a grandparent (70%) and use those benchmarks to explain to his roommate or his uncle why the divestment campaign matters to him. Continue reading
Even if today’s college students live to be 100 years old, more than half of the CO2 released into the atmosphere during the four years they are in college will still be present there at the end of their lives – warming the planet and contributing to extreme events, like droughts, floods, and storms all the while – long after the decision makers behind those investment choices will have left office. The college students across the US who are arguing that their education should not be funded by actions that diminish the health of the world in which their future will unfold have a strong case, supported by the basic physics of the climate.
The New York Times has a front page article about the growing number of student-led campaigns at colleges and universities across the US calling on board’s of trustees to divest of investments in fossil energy companies. According to the article, some college administrations are listening to the students and taking steps to eliminate fossil fuel companies from their investment portfolios. Others are, so far, not agreeing with the link the students are making: that fossil fuel investment undermines the very future colleges and universities seek to prepare young people for.
As students around the US find their voice and begin to insist that their generation’s stake in the long-term future be taken into account in investment decisions at educational institutions, we, as we like to do on timely issues at Climate Interactive, ran the numbers, asking a simple question:
Just how long will the fossil fuel related decisions made by college Presidents and Board of Trustees today continue to impact the lives of current students? Continue reading