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article imageOp-Ed: U.K. doctors join divestment campaign: Will it hurt fossil fuels?

By Karen Graham     Jul 1, 2014 in Environment
According to Business Green, the British Medical Association, citing the many health risks associated with climate change has made the decision to commit to divesting from fossil fuels, making them the first national medical group to do so.
While this is an extraordinary move, the world has known about the dangers and risks to the health of the world's population since 2010, when scientists claimed that climate change would be responsible for as many as five million human deaths by 2020. This claim was made by DARA International's Climate Vulnerability Monitor: The State of the Climate Crisis.
The medical profession is taking climate change very seriously, from George Washington University's commitment to using solar power, to hospitals moving toward green construction methods. Other institutions and organizations are jumping on the climate change bandwagon, and the list is growing every day.
As of 2013, there were 41 institutions that had made commitments to divest from fossil fuels. From universities to churches and cities and towns, the list is growing, according to a study done by Oxford University. Their report compared the current fossil fuel divestment campaign with past international campaigns, such as tobacco, Apartheid in South Africa, and several others.
Will divestment hurt the fossil fuel industry?
Different groups send a variety of messages to the rest of the world when they make a commitment to divest of fossil fuels. Church groups send the message that they are concerned about the morality of damaging our world. Doctors send the message that they care about the health and well-being of the world's people. All of them are saying they will not support the use of fossil fuels to heat our homes and businesses or fuel our vehicles.
But how much is the fossil fuel industry being impacted by this growing trend to divest of fossil fuel holdings? Loren Steffy, writing in Forbes, points out that there is more to the divestment story than most people realize. He points out that Wall Street can't deliver the capital needed to form a sustainable economy centered around renewable energy in this country simply because our economy isn't sustainable.
Steffy is saying there hasn't been enough capital put into renewables to attract investments needed for growth, and that does make a lot of sense. Big Oil is still searching for more fossil fuels, and that's where most of their capital goes, and while there are a number of new or emerging technologies out there, they are mainly funded by private funds or venture capital.
Others have pointed out that the economies of many nations are intertwined with fossil fuels. And further still, if all the monies divested from fossil fuel companies were added up, it would still be a relatively small amount in comparison to the capital of traded fossil fuel companies and state-owned fossil fuel assets.
The Oxford study did point out that with the momentum behind the divestment movement growing, damage to a company's reputation from the divestment campaign could possibly reap some financial damage. The Oxford team said, “The outcome of the stigmatization process, which the fossil fuel divestment campaign has now triggered, poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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