Standing up for a Sustainable World

The world has, on some key dimensions, made extraordinary progress since the end of the second world war: output per head has quadrupled; poverty, in terms of income, has been significantly reduced; and life expectancy increased. However, this extraordinary growth has come at colossal environmental cost and the world is now in a deeply dangerous position with a very narrow window for action. Standing up for a Sustainable World, a new book released by Edward Elgar Publishing in December 2020, is about and by those who have seen and confronted the threats, and who have opened pathways to a more sustainable development path.

The anthology, edited by professors Claude Henry, Johan Rockström, and Nicholas Stern, includes a chapter by Rockefeller Brothers Fund President Stephen Heintz on the case for fossil fuel divestment. "In order to stay below two degrees Celsius warming, " Heintz writes, "80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground." He continues:

"They would become, as economists say, stranded assets. But investors were still pricing these companies under the assumption that every drop of oil on their books would be brought to the market. The world’s financial markets were carrying a carbon bubble that would make the housing bubble of 2008 look playful by comparison. The question was when, not if, the carbon bubble would burst.

Now there was an economic dimension to a conversation that had previously been conducted along moral lines. The moral case for divestment argues that it is wrong to abet and profit from companies whose business models are premised on the destruction of the planet. The economic argument strikes the word 'profit': fossil fuel companies, it says, are simply bad investments."

Given the urgent nature of its subject, the complete book has been made available to the public free of charge under a Creative Commons license. Download it to read more of RBF’s fossil fuel divestment story and other stories from climate litigants, impact investors and entrepreneurs, frontline defenders, and environmental advocates and activists.