Big news! In a speech this morning from the Senate Floor, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spoke about the urgency of the climate crisis and then commended students for taking up fossil fuel divestment.

Here’s what he said:

The public is ready for us to take action, but we’re not. We are, as I’ve said previous speeches, sleepwalking. As Congress sleepwalks, Americans actually are taking action on their own. 

In coordination with the nonprofit organization, for example, students at more than 150 colleges and universities across the country are pressing those institutions to sell off the portions of their endowment portfolio that are invested in fossil fuel companies. 

These students are imploring their schools to weigh the real cost of climate change against the drive for more financial returns, and divest from the polluters. 

This type of divestment campaign was deployed effectively in the 1980s to pull investments from South Africa during apartheid. With American college and university endowments estimated to total more than $400 billion, this movement by students deserves significant attention. 

Senator Whitehouse’s comments will be a big boost for student efforts across the country, especially in his home state of Rhode Island (we’ve got great campaigns at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design) and at his alma maters, Yale University and University of Virginia Law School.

This is exactly the type of impact that we hoped this campaign would have. Divestment is not only creating waves on college campuses across the country, but making an impact in the halls of Congress, as well.

Many thanks to Senator Whitehouse, who has consistently been one of the strongest voices in the Senate calling for climate action. We hope that other politicians will find the courage to live up to his example.

p.s. You can watch the remarks on CSPAN here.