The American Museum of Natural History, the country’s oldest, largest, and one of the most popular museums in the country, has revealed it has partially divested its $650 million endowment from fossil fuel investments, in response to a letter signed by more than 150 of the world’s top scientists urging museums of science and natural history to divest.
In March of 2015, an Open Letter was sent ‘To Museums of Science and Natural History’ expressing ‘deep concern’ for “the links between museums of science and natural history with those who profit from fossil fuels or fund lobby groups that misrepresent climate science.”
“Drawing on both our scientific expertise and personal care for our planet and people, we believe that the only ethical way forward for our museums is to cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science obfuscation.”
The letter was signed by more than 150 of the world’s top scientists, headed by the ubiquitous James Hansen, among many other leading scientists.
Nearly two years later, the American Museum of Natural History has confirmed it has reduced its endowment’s fossil fuel exposure. Currently, according to a letter (PDF) from Daniel Stoddard, the Museum’s Vice President and Chief Investment Officer, the Museum holds no direct investments in fossil fuel companies, following a move in June 2015 by the Museum requiring its investment managers “take environmental and climate change issues into account when reviewing their current investments and in considering making new investments.” Further, the Museum’s indirect holdings in fossil fuel investments have decreased from 4% in 2014 to less than 2%.
“As anti-science forces have gained unprecedented power in the White House and Congress, the role of our most trusted institutions of science is more important than ever,” said Beka Economopoulos of The Natural History Museum, a mobile and pop-up museum that champions bold climate action. “We applaud the American Museum of Natural History for slashing investments in the very companies that have spread climate science disinformation for decades. We hope this encourages other science museums to stand up for science and cut ties to fossil fuels.”
“In the face of climate catastrophe, our cultural institutions have a unique responsibility to do more than observe and curate history — they must stand up to help make it,” said Katie McChesney, 350.org US Divestment Campaign Manager. “As we enter the final weeks of the hottest year in history, with a regressive and corrupt incoming administration, it is not enough for museums to accept the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. We need museums of science and natural history to take a stand.”