With more than 91 million Americans having $5.6 trillion invested in the five major fund families that control recordkeeping at 75 percent of all employer-sponsored retirement plans, you've got to figure that many people are investing in companies not aligned with their values. With divest from fossil fuel campaigns gaining significant momentum, even if you want to divest from carbon, how can you really be sure your money is invested in companies you want to see prosper?
Fortunately for people that want to make sure their money isn't underwriting the fossil fuel industry, a new free-to-the-public web tool is now available—FossilFreeFunds.org. Launched today by the shareholder advocacy nonprofit As You Sow, Fossil Free Funds is the first website that allows investors to compare mutual funds' holdings against the Carbon Underground 200 list—the 100 largest coal and 100 largest oil/gas companies—fossil-fired utilities and coal holdings. With a tool this powerful, people can now rest assured that their investments aren't contributing to climate change.
And, for those interested in joining the thousands of foundations and individuals, with assets totaling more than $50 billion, as of September 2014, to take the Divest-Invest pledge to decarbonize their investments, stripping these companies from one's portfolio is the minimum requirement.
“Since the beginning of the divestment movement, investors have been clamoring for transparency and a way to identify how they can use their portfolios to actively combat climate change," said Andrew Behar, As You Sow's CEO. “We developed FossilFreeFunds.org after we realized that our own 401(k) was composed of mutual funds that had major oil, gas and coal extraction companies—but we had no idea. We figured that if we didn't know, then probably no one did. This tool gives everyone the power to truly know what they own, so they can own what they own."
As You Sow uses Morningstar fund holding data in collaboration with Carbon Underground 200, Carbon Tracker Initiative, BrightScope and HIP investor. The online tool reveals where fossil fuel holdings are hiding in 1,500 of the most-held mutual funds. Since the five major fund families—including Fidelity, Vanguard and TIAA-CREF—do not offer any diversified mutual funds that are socially responsible and free of the 200 largest fossil fuel companies, consumers have lacked the information and transparency they need to make adequate decisions about where to invest their money.
“With comprehensive fund holdings data, we are able to provide greater transparency and help investors better evaluate the sustainable and ethical effect of their investments," said Joanna McGinley, head of global redistributor solutions for Morningstar. According to Julie Fox Gorte, senior vice president for sustainable investing at Pax World Management LLC, “There are many things investors can do to address the risks created by climate change, especially the risks created by combustion of fossil fuels. One is to avoid fossil fuel stocks."
Interested in going completely “fossil free" with your investments? Fossil Free Funds provides an easy-to-use platform which screens for coal, smaller oil/gas companies, service industries (e.g. Halliburton) and fossil-fired utilities.
As You Sow explains, "Funds that are clear of investments in a given segment earn a green badge. Funds can earn a maximum of five badges. Out of the 1,500 funds with the highest plan count, only 12 diversified and SRI funds have earned the five badge rating, including Parnassus Endeavor fund (PARWX), Portfolio 21 Global Equity (PORTX), USA Mutuals Barrier (VICEX), Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth (BAWAX), PAX World Growth (PXGAX), Green Century Balanced (GCBLX), Gabelli SRI (SRIGX) and Shelton Green Alpha (NEXTX)."
Here's an example of searching the SPDR S&P 500 ETF on FossilFreeFunds.org:
According to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, 71 percent of active individual investors describe themselves as interested in sustainable investing, while nearly 65 percent believe sustainable investing will become more prevalent over the next five years, with millennials and women at the forefront of sustainable investing. The Fossil Free Funds tool helps empower these consumers to get to the bottom of where oil, gas and coal investments are hiding in their portfolios, so they can sell mutual funds that don't align with their objectives and reinvest in funds that do, or work with their financial advisors to divest and reinvest.
But what happens if employees options don't provide a fossil free alternative? Consumers can download a 401(k) toolkit to help them advocate with their retirement plan administrators to include fossil free investment options.
According to Fox Gorte, "At some point, fossil fuels will be stranded assets; this is already happening to coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Michael Bloomberg recently noted that in his blog, 'Obama Didn't Kill Coal, the Market Did.' Citigroup recently reported that if we are to limit future warming to 2ᵒ C, $100 trillion worth of fossil fuel reserves will become stranded assets. This won't happen overnight, but however it does, investors who are not prepared for it will wish they were."
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
New fossils uncovered in Argentina may belong to one of the largest animals to have walked on Earth.
- Groundbreaking Fossil Shows Prehistoric 15-Foot Reptile Tried to ... ›
- Skull of Smallest Known Dinosaur Found in 99-Million-Year Old Amber ›
- Giant 'Toothed' Birds Flew Over Antarctica 40 Million Years Ago ... ›
- World's Second-Largest Egg Found in Antarctica Probably Hatched ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Pruitt Guts the Clean Power Plan: How Weak Will the New EPA ... ›
- It's Official: Trump Administration to Repeal Clean Power Plan ... ›
- 'Deadly' Clean Power Plan Replacement ›
By Jonathan Runstadler and Kaitlin Sawatzki
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found coronavirus infections in pet cats and dogs and in multiple zoo animals, including big cats and gorillas. These infections have even happened when staff were using personal protective equipment.
- Gorillas in San Diego Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Wildlife Rehabilitators Are Overwhelmed During the Pandemic. In ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
- Utah Mink Becomes First Wild Animal to Test Positive for Coronavirus ›
By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
By John R. Platt
The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.
- Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate and Green Recovery Plan ... ›
- How Biden and Kerry Can Rebuild America's Climate Leadership ... ›
- Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental ... ›
- How Joe Biden's Climate Plan Compares to the Green New Deal ... ›