Alex Beam (“Divestment is an empty gesture,” Opinion, June 11) could not be more wrong about the impact of the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign. The effort is not an empty gesture, but rather a powerful strategy to weaken the political power of the fossil fuel industry and open up the space for climate action. Divestment is effective because it goes after the social license of the industry, helping to turn Big Fossil Fuels into Big Tobacco, a pariah industry that has lost its stranglehold on the political process.
The divestment effort has had a profound impact on the public debate around climate change by normalizing the idea that the world must get off fossil fuels and make the transition to 100 percent renewable energy. This process results in political progress: At the Group of Seven meeting last week, world leaders committed to decarbonize the global economy over the course of the century. It also has a serious economic impact: Two-thirds of people in the United Kingdom see fossil fuels as an increasingly risky bet, while French banks such as Credit Agricole are pulling out of coal investments altogether.
I agree with Beam that Norway must go beyond coal divestment. But to say it is hypocritical to divest while still using fossil fuels is equivalent to telling parents they must remove their children from class while advocating for better schools. We must fight in the world we have, not the world we want. In the meantime, divestment is a powerful strategy to help get us there.