I believe the fossil fuel divestment movement, including for Minnesota’s pension fund, is a necessary action to combat climate change based on two factors that go beyond the immediate financial impact on fossil fuel companies.
First, divestment is an essential strategy for removing the social license that we collectively have granted to fossil fuel companies to operate. This license allows these companies to extract from the earth and the local communities in which they operate with little regard for the consequences. In turn, these companies have used their profits to obscure the truth around climate change, even funding and advancing outright climate-change denial. By divesting, we would collectively state that the status quo is no longer acceptable, that our financial interests can no longer be tied to the rampant harm caused by these industries and that our institutions are willing to take a stand.
Second, divestment is a prudent financial decision for investors, as the risks associated with ownership in fossil fuel companies grow larger by the day. The potential carbon emissions from proven fossil fuel reserves, which currently sit as assets on the financial statements of these companies, far outweigh the emissions that can be released while staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the level at which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates we must stay to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
These assets are at risk, which puts shareholders, such as Minnesota’s pension fund, at serious risk for future losses. Recent research suggests that this risk exists even without new climate policies, as clean energy technology grows cheaper while fossil fuels become more expensive, ensuring an inevitable transition from fossil fuels.
I urge the state pension fund to recognize the risk to its pension holders and fully divest from fossil fuel companies.
Daniel Tikk, St. Paul
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The state of Minnesota’s pension fund has almost $2 billion invested in the top 200 fossil fuel companies as of 2016.
There is a growing movement to bring lawsuits against fossil fuel companies for the planetary damage they have knowingly caused — much like the lawsuits brought against tobacco companies.
It makes no sense to stay invested in companies that we could at the same time sue for negligence and that are knowingly jeopardizing our future. Investing in fossil fuels has been morally suspect for a long time. More recently that strategy has become even more alarming as our energy production shifts and renewables like wind and solar now cost less than oil, gas or coal.
Let’s stand with all of those who are invested in the state pension fund and demand that their investments are protected from dangerous attachments to last century’s energy structure.
Let’s stand with all of those whose lives are already being shattered by the climate crisis, burning their communities, flooding their homes, ruining their crops and endangering their livelihoods.
Minnesota’s pension fund is exposed to these old risky investments to the same degree that other states are.
A study released in November showed California’s investment in fossil fuels cost its fund $5.5 billion over the past 10 years.
A study of New York City’s pension investment found the average pension holder has lost nearly $20,000 in the past 10 years through exposure to fossil fuel investments.
So far, Minnesota’s pension fund manager has not undertaken a study to calculate the loss that Minnesota’s pension fund has suffered. We can assume that it is similar to the losses in New York and California.
Abbie Bjugstad, Minneapolis
The farm crisis is worsening
The farm crisis should be of great concern to all of us. It affects our neighbors, our local economies and our most fundamental way of life. For the last six years, farmers have lost money on their crops and herds, the median farm income for 2018 was minus $1,548, and Midwest farm bankruptcies are the highest in the country. Farmer suicides are also high.
This is a community issue. Corporate farm organizations are squeezing out small family farms, reducing their income. Our farmer cooperatives, created to help small farmers band together to secure better pricing in all aspects of their operations, now function to serve the biggest farms at the expense of the small farmer. My neighbors, both large family-farm operations of thousands of acres and small family-dairy operations of hundreds of acres, struggle with the cost of providing family health care, forcing all of them to have a spouse work off the farm to provide this critical service. This crisis is threatening the survivability of our rural community and businesses.
I support the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Crisis statement and strategy. It demands actions that address the factors affecting the erosion of our farm-based values, lifestyles and economies, not just in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but supported at the federal level. I ask you to consider how important farmers are to our way of life. Read the statement and act by signing the petition on the project’s website.
Barry Drazkowski, Fountain City, Wis.
Use surplus money with caution
The story on the anticipated budget surplus in Minnesota is another happy one (“Budget surplus of $1.3B forecast,” front page, Dec. 6). The possible fight over said money is something we’ve learned to expect. The story remains the same: A Democratic governor (like Gov. Mark Dayton) presides over a healthy budget surplus. The smart move would be to keep the $1.3 billion, invest it and save it for when it’s needed in the event of a weather disaster, a needed influx of cash to education, highways, cities, a tax break or putting off tax increases, etc. The alternative, which we’ve seen before, would be to give it back and then complain that the other party is the blame for the state’s bankruptcy.
Don’t financially healthy families save and invest for the future? States should also. Thank you, Gov. Tim Walz, for your financially sound leadership.
Tom Intihar, Brooklyn Park
For decriminalization, economics is not the only thing that matters
Karl Smith in the commentary “Decriminalizing sex work makes sense” (Opinion Exchange, Dec. 5) states that only two concerns predominate among skeptics and opponents of doing so: “The first is that prostitution erodes the moral fabric of society. The second is that prostitution is inherently violent and decriminalization would worsen the exploitation of women.”
To which he then turns his argument to address the second, economic, issue only and never mentions again in his entire essay the first — as if concern for the moral fabric of society is not even worthy of comment.
And there, I would suggest, we see the basic problem. Societies that do not have a moral center, and base themselves around economic interests only, do not produce good and sustainable communities.
Mr. Smith may have an idiosyncratic economic point for the plight of poor women, but he has lost the larger vision of what makes any of it worthwhile.
Leonard Freeman, Long Lake
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