Earlier this month, after years of debate and discussion, President Obama has said no to the Keystone XL pipeline. For us here at Radius, this decision brought a sigh of relief. When examined closely, the project had little long-term value, either economically or environmentally. As the President said, “Ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”
Recently, President Reif released MIT's own statement on the environment, more specifically MIT's Plan for Action on Climate Change. This plan brought a sigh of disappointment.
Last year, President Reif appointed an advisory committee (the Climate Change Conversation Committee) to make recommendations for an MIT plan of action in combatting climate change. After a year of listening to MIT community members, the committee submitted their report. Among the recommendations was a unanimous vote to create an Ethics Advisory Council to “explicitly combat disinformation and avoid inadvertently supporting disinformation through investments..". President Reif and the rest of the MIT Corporation have decided that such an ethics council need not be formed despite a unanimous vote of President Reif's own committee on climate change.
This, indeed, is disappointing. We at Radius would like a substantive discussion on why this recommendation, and others, (see Fossil Free MIT's op-ed in The Tech) were not taken and we are in the process of planning such an event in Spring 2016. In concluding the report, the Climate Change Conversation Committee stated, "Perils ahead dwarf risks to the Institute in navigating this politically charged issue, such that even exceptional measures should not be eschewed."
President Obama took a risk when he navigated the politically charged issue of the XL Keystone pipeline. MIT needs to take exceptional measures if we are to face the perils that lie ahead.