California’s two biggest pension funds have invested a staggering $43 billion in fossil fuel companies, and their opposition to divesting from the industry — including fighting legislation that would have stopped them investing in firms involved with the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) — has cost retirees and taxpayers billions, research shows.
The findings hammer home the fact that the divestment movement isn’t just about protecting the planet from the worst effects of climate change. With the oil, gas, and coal industries all on the decline, pension funds’ refusal to divest from fossil fuels is also endangering the retirement savings of teachers, government employees, and other rank-and-file public workers who have paid into these funds.
While it is common knowledge that fossil fuel stocks have underperformed the broader stock market, large bank stocks have been lackluster as well — including the banks that helped finance DAPL.
If CalPERS and CalSTRS had not opposed the original DAPL divestment legislation, they could have instead put pressure on the companies involved not to move forward with the pipeline, and such efforts might have been enough to stop the project, given the pipeline project’s turbulent history.
Wealthy, vaccine manufacturing countries like Germany, France, and the U.S. have pledged to fully vaccinate their own populations while also sharing doses with the developing world. But it’s not clear that a sufficient number of doses currently exist for them to make good on this promise. The European Union, for example, is on track to fall far short of its goal of donating 200 million doses to non-member states by the end of the year. And as of August, COVAX, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) vaccine sharing initiative, had distributed 188 million vaccines worldwide, just 19 percent of the 1.1 billion that the WHO says are needed to end the pandemic.
The more people remain unvaccinated worldwide, the likelier it is that new variants will emerge, endangering vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.
Legally, the U.S. may already have the ability to do so. The terms between Moderna and the federal government specify that the government possesses rights to the vaccine technology developed under the contract, meaning that it can unilaterally publish or share the data with anyone. Furthermore, an essential component of the Moderna vaccine was invented and patented by U.S. government researchers, meaning that the government could threaten a patent infringement suit against Moderna if the company refuses to share its vaccine know-how.
Science has provided America with a decent idea of which areas of our country will be most devastated by climate change, and which areas will be most insulated from the worst effects. Unfortunately, it seems that population flows are going in the wrong direction — today’s new Census data shows a nation moving out of the safer areas and into some of the most dangerous places of all.
Some of the examples are genuinely mind-boggling. For instance, upstate New York is considered one of the country’s most insulated regions in the climate crisis — and yet almost all of upstate New York saw population either nearly flat or declining. At the same time, there were big population increases in and around the Texas gulf coast, which is threatened by extreme heat and coastal flooding.
Similarly, the city of Philadelphia is comparatively well situated in the climate crisis — but it saw only modest population growth of 5 percent. It was surpassed on the list of biggest cities by Phoenix, which saw an 11 percent population growth, despite that city facing some of the worst forms of extreme heat and drought in the entire country.