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Guardian Petition to Foundations: Don’t Fund Fossil Fuels

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment

A Guardian petition calls on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest from fossil fuels.

More than 140,000 people have signed the petition since the Guardian's editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, launched it on Monday with 350.org.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation --the largest private foundation in the world -- is well known to most Americans, but some of us have never heard of the Wellcome Trust.

On its website, the organization describes itself a "global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health." It is also one of the largest funders of medical research, according to the Guardian.

In other words, two large charitable foundations with global reach are being asked to stop funding the dirty fuels that contribute to climate change. Specifically, they are being asked to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies within five years.

“We’re at a tipping point and it’s become clear that people and institutions of good conscience have to cut these ties,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. “Now 100,000 people from around the world have combined to say that these giant philanthropies need to walk their talk.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation held more than $1.4 billion of investments in fossil fuel companies as of its 2013 tax filing, a Guardian analysis found. The Wellcome Trust had a minimum of $520.8 million invested in fossil fuel companies last year, according to the Guardian.

So far, neither company has responded favorably to the petition, which is a shame. Climate change is all too real. The Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states. The average temperature is projected to increase by another 2 degrees to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt. The Third National Climate Assessment report, released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, lists various impacts that are presently visible in the U.S. The impacts include increased wildfires in the Southwest caused by increased heat and drought. California is currently experiencing its fourth year of one of its worst droughts in recent history. Last fall, a Stanford University study linked California’s drought to climate change.

Last year was the hottest year on record. Scientists at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranked 2014 as the warmest year since records were first kept in 1880. The Japan Meteorological Agency also ranked 2014 as the warmest year on record.

It is clear that the Earth’s temperatures are increasing and that is causing havoc for the planet’s residents, both human and animal alike. It is time for charitable organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest from climate change. Funding the fossil fuel companies that cause a big portion of the greenhouse gas emissions that are heating up the planet is not charitable.

Image credit: Ken Hodge

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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