President Obama's climate speech Saturday got plenty of press for its lengthy assault on global-warming denial. But what excited an aggressive wing of the climate movement were just a few cryptic words elsewhere in the commencement address at the University of California (Irvine):
"You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms."
Activists pushing universities and other institutions to dump their financial holdings in coal and oil-and-gas companies believe they heard an unmistakable White House endorsement. "People are thrilled about it," Jamie Henn of 350.org, one of the groups leading the divestment movement, said of Obama's comments Saturday.
"Students will be taking the president's message to their college presidents and boards of trustees," he said of the fossil-fuel-divestment campaign, which also includes the Energy Action Coalition, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Sierra Student Coalition, and groups on specific campuses. The founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, a high-profile climate activist, has been a major divestment advocate.
It's Obama's second apparent nod to the idea. During a Georgetown University speech rolling out his second-term climate plan last June, Obama was even briefer, saying "Invest. Divest."