New article on fossil fuel divestment at Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communciation

Divest from fossil fuels sign.

Divest from fossil fuels sign.

Earlier this year, Dr. Jill Hopke of DePaul University and I published an article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communication, edited by Dr. Matthew Nisbet of Northeastern University. The article is titled Fossil Fuel Divestment and Climate Change Communication, and is available free online for a period of time. The article is part of what will ultimately be the most comprehensive source of review articles about climate change communication available anywhere. A selection of articles will also be published as a book; both articles co-authored by Jill and I will appear in the printed version. Here’s the abstract:

Divestment is a socially responsible investing tactic to remove assets from a sector or industry based on moral objections to its business practices. It has historical roots in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. The early-21st-century fossil fuel divestment movement began with climate activist and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” McKibben’s argument centers on three numbers. The first is 2°C, the international target for limiting global warming that was agreed upon at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2009 Copenhagen conference of parties (COP). The second is 565 Gigatons, the estimated upper limit of carbon dioxide that the world population can put into the atmosphere and reasonably expect to stay below 2°C. The third number is 2,795 Gigatons, which is the amount of proven fossil fuel reserves. That the amount of proven reserves is five times that which is allowable within the 2°C limit forms the basis for calls to divest.

The aggregation of individual divestment campaigns constitutes a movement with shared goals. Divestment can also function as “tactic” to indirectly apply pressure to targets of a movement, such as in the case of the movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline in the United States. Since 2012, the fossil fuel divestment movement has been gaining traction, first in the United States and United Kingdom, with student-led organizing focused on pressuring universities to divest endowment assets on moral grounds.

In partnership with 350.org, The Guardian launched its Keep it in the Ground campaign in March 2015 at the behest of outgoing editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger. Within its first year, the digital campaign garnered support from more than a quarter-million online petitioners and won a “campaign of the year” award in the Press Gazette’s British Journalism Awards. Since the launch of The Guardian’s campaign, “keep it in the ground” has become a dominant frame used by fossil fuel divestment activists.

Divestment campaigns seek to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry. The rationale for divestment rests on the idea that fossil fuel companies are financially valued based on their resource reserves and will not be able to extract these reserves with a 2°C or lower climate target. Thus, their valuation will be reduced and the financial holdings become “stranded assets.” Critics of divestment have cited the costs and risks to institutional endowments that divestment would entail, arguing that to divest would go against their fiduciary responsibility. Critics have also argued that divesting from fossil fuel assets would have little or no impact on the industry. Some higher education institutions, including Princeton and Harvard, have objected to divestment as a politicization of their endowments. Divestment advocates have responded to this concern by pointing out that not divesting is not a politically neutral act—it is, in fact, choosing the side of fossil fuel corporations.

Dr. Hopke and I have another article pending from the Oxford Encyclopedia about Internet-mediated climate change activism.

New publication: ‘Tools Beyond Control’

Social Media + Society logo

Social Media + Society

Here’s my latest peer-reviewed research article, called Tools Beyond Control: Social Media and the Work of Advocacy Organizations, which was published today by Social Media + Society. The article deals with privatized Internet governance and how it can affect the work of digital strategists at advocacy organizations. Here’s the abstract:

Advocacy organizations rely on social media services, such as Facebook and Twitter, to engage their supporters. These services increasingly influence how citizens and advocacy organizations engage politically online through the technical features and policies they choose to implement—a phenomenon that can sometimes disrupt the work of advocates. Interviews with digital strategists at several US advocacy organizations revealed low levels of awareness of this phenomenon, despite its potential impact on their work; substantial dependence on these services for advocacy work; and a shared sense of necessity to embrace these tools, despite their potential downsides. Implications for the scholarship and practice of Internet governance and digitally mediated advocacy are discussed.

 Social Media + Society is an open access journal, so you can read the entire article online for free.

 

Co-authored chapter for ‘Environmental Policy: New Directions for the Twenty-First Century,’ 10th Edition

CQ Press logo

CQ Press logo

I recently co-authored a book chapter with Dr. Matthew C. Nisbet for the 10th edition of Environmental Policy: New Directions for the Twenty-First Century (here’s a link to the 9th edition). The chapter is called Environmental Advocacy at the Dawn of the Trump Era. The chapter chronicles environmental activism from the last few years of the Obama administration to the latest developments under President Trump. It discusses the involvement of environmental activists in the 2016 primaries and the election, their reactions to Trump’s unexpected victory, and the actions they’ve taken since the election to confront Trump’s climate change denial and anti-environmental regulation agenda. Environmental Policy is the most widely used textbook on the subject in the United States. The 10th edition will appear in 2018 from CQ Press.