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Scientists Demand Citigroup End Fossil Fuel Funding

   

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Last week, I participated in the Scientists Speakout Day during the Summer of Heat on Wall Street, to protest and disrupt the financial institutions that are enabling the fossil fuel industry (and, as a result, our current climate crisis). This campaign, which will be active all summer, demands action from Citigroup and other big banks and insurers to stop enabling fossil fuel pollution.

Citi is underwriting climate devastation through its continued funding of fossil fuels, including $396 billion since the Paris Agreement in 2016. These investments and resultant heat-trapping emissions are driving record heat and extreme climate impacts worldwide.

Scientists Speakout Day coincided with the release of an open letter to Citi CEO Jane Fraser and Board Chair John Dugan, signed by over 750 scientists, calling on Citi to:

Stop financing companies engaged in fossil fuel expansion
End funding for new and expanding liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects
Safeguard human rights, Indigenous sovereignty, and the rights of workers at the companies they finance
Finance renewable energy to help limit warming to 1.5°C
Acknowledge and repair harm from previously funded projects

As part of the action, a conservation biologist shared how she mourns the species she has spent her life studying. A biomedical researcher explained how climate warming increases the risks to humans from existing and novel pathogens. And I spoke about the power of attribution science, which allows scientists to link events and trends like heatwaves and sea level rise to climate change, and in turn, to link climate change to specific sources of emissions.

UCS-led research has found that more than 40% of the increase in global mean surface temperature and roughly a third of sea level rise since 1880 can be traced to emissions from the 90 largest fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers, while more than 7 million hectares of the area burned in forest fires in western North America since 1986 are attributable to emissions from these same entities—many of which have been funded by Citigroup and other major financial institutions.

In climate litigation, this research provides a critical link in the causal chain between polluters, climate disasters, and the individuals and communities impacted. In actions like the one I participated in last week, attribution science lays bare the role that fossil fuel companies and their financial enablers have played in bringing us to our current moment, one where ‘Summer of Heat’ takes on new meaning as extreme heat suffocates much of the United States this week.

As we spoke about our areas of research during the action, several of our colleagues risked arrest outside of Citi’s doors. I expect to see more scientist advocacy in the coming years, since as a group, scientists have been researching, publishing, and presenting for decades about the risks of climate change and the need to act quickly to reduce harm. And yet, big banks, fossil fuel corporations, and policymakers have continued to lead us down this dangerous path. We need to get louder about their inaction—and the sad reality that those who have contributed least to the problem are most at risk.

As a scientist and global citizen, it’s enraging to consider that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established before I was born—and here we are, knowing it didn’t have to be this way. As my colleagues Erika Spanger and Dr. Peter Kalmus have written, in the face of a crisis of this magnitude, we must take bolder action to disrupt business as usual and protect what we hold dear.

Like many of the scientists who participated, I engage with the realities of climate change daily, from researching the devastating impacts for people in vulnerable situations, to outlining the opportunities lost due to decades of deception, obstruction, and ongoing greenwashing by the fossil fuel industry. These daily reminders motivate me to use my scientific expertise towards justice and a rapid phase out of fossil fuels that can protect many people, places, ecosystems, and species from climate harm.

I hope you will join me and thousands of other people this summer in taking action with the Summer of Heat on Wall Street campaign to hold the financiers of climate chaos accountable, and fight for a safer and more just future.

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