Scientists, Laureates want Nobel Prize to divest from fossil fuels

Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels

Ahead of the Nobel Prize 2016 ceremonies today, prize winners and scientists have urged the Nobel Foundation to divest its $420 million endowment from fossil fuels. In a letter released ahead of the event, they argued that the institution ‘should not profit from the destruction of our planet’s climate’.

Among the 14 laureates that signed the letter are renowned scientists such as atmospheric chemist Paul Josef Crutzen, physicist David Wineland and biologist Sir John Sulston, and several winners of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize including Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, Yemeni women’s rights campaigner Tawakkol Karman and Argentinean human rights and peace activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

Nigeria is a major player in the organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). But uncertainty has continued to surround the future direction of oil prices and this has led the country to adopt a conservative budget for 2017 set around a crude export price of $42.5 a barrel and a production target of 2.2 million barrels/day, the same output level set for 2016.

In recent years, much has been said about the importance of developing renewable energy, especially those sources that come with an ‘environmentally friendly’ stamp of approval.

This need has become even more pressing in the wake of the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, reached by world leaders in December last year.

However, while it is commendable to support ‘green’ sources of energy that have the potential to help preserve the planet for future generations, one has to be realistic. The fact is, in the overall energy mix, there is only so much that renewables, such as solar, wind power and biofuels, can do to supply the burgeoning levels of efficient, reliable and affordable energy the world requires.

By 2040, OPEC predicts global economic growth doubling from today’s levels, as the number of people on the planet expands by 1.7 billion. Significantly for the oil sector, which is transportation driven, another 1.2 billion people will be behind the wheel of an automobile. Commercial vehicles on the road will double, while air travel will soar. And, in the developing countries, massive potential exists for providing access to modern energy services to billions of people currently without adequate means of heating, cooking and lighting.

However, activists are asking for Nigeria’s transition to a zero carbon economy. Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Godwin Ojo, said: “We strongly believe that a zero carbon development is essential for Nigeria. So we are looking at a post-petroleum economy and how Nigeria can transform from fossil fuel dependency to renewable oil dependency. This is crucial because in 30-50 years, the impact of climate change will be monumental, even more catastrophic so there is every need for mitigation and adaptation to climate change issues.”

The letter has also been signed by eminent scientific contributors to the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“In his will, Alfred Nobel wrote that prizes should be awarded to those who ‘shall have conferred the greatest benefit to [hu]mankind’. As laureates and scientists embracing Alfred Nobel’s final words, it is our expectation that the Nobel Foundation also act in the interest of humankind which includes caring for the health of the planet which we all rely upon,” the letter states.

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