To: The Standing Committees (& All Members) of the
HKU Convocation & CUHK Convocation,
An Urgent Call for our two Universities (and subsequently all universities
in Hong Kong) to Divest from the Fossil Fuel Industry in order to
Combat Global Warming and Climate Change
Dear Fellow Alumni,
The adverse impacts of human-induced global warming and climate change are growing stronger day by day. Over the past cenury, global average temperature has risen by 0.9 degrees Celsius, and mean sea level by 20 centimetres. This has already led to significant shrinkage of the Artic ice cap and extensive melting of glaciers world-wide. Severe droughts, heat waves, wild fires, and super-storms are becoming more and more frequent. Biological habitats are being destroyed and the rate of species extinction ( a loss which is irrevocable) has reached an unprecedneted level.
According to the latest assessment report released by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2012, if we continue on our present course, the global temprature will rise by a further 5 degrees, and the sea level by 90 cm by the end of this century. Many scientists consider these projections to be too conservative, fearing that the actual consequences would be far worse.
International efforts to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide – the main culprit behind global warming via the greenhouse effect – has failed miserably so far. With the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen International Climate Conference the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012, people the world over have come to the realization that this is an issue too important to be left to the politicians. We the people must stand up and take the lead in this fight for our own future – a fight which we cannot afford to lose.
Initiated by the organization 350.org (http://350.org/), the Global Divestment Campaign launced earlier this year is exactly such a citizens’ action to turn the tide. It is a call for all individuals as well as organizations to divest from the fossil fuel industry, thus giving a clear signal to society-at-large that any further extraction and burning of fossil fuel like coal, oil and natural gas is a crime against humanity.
The organizations targetted by this campaign include all types of NGOs, charity and humanitarian organizations, as well as various religious organizations such as the Vatican. And yet the leading organizations must surely be the universities, the custodians of knowledge and wisdom in our societies. True to their mission, universities such as Standford University and University of Glasgow have committed themselves to divestment. However, resistance in many universities is strong. As a result, students all over the world are pressing their universities – most notably at Harvard and Oxford – to do the right thing.
I am a HKU BSc graduate of 1978, and have been working hard to raise the awareness of the people in Hong Kong to the threat of global warming for over ten years – with public lectures and radio/TV shows, university GE courses, as well as a book titled 《喚醒69億隻青蛙》published in 2011. A few years ago, a group called 文明急救組 was set up together with some of my friends, and numerous articles were written and published on various on-line platforms. Recently, we have formally registered as the Hong Kong chapter of 350.org. A Facebook account titled [email protected] has just been launched.
I deeply believe that both the HKU and CUHK Convocations are uniquely positioned – the popular phrase nowadays is “those chosen by history” – to take up this challenge. I sincerely hope that after due deliberation, the Standing Committees of both Convocations will start a dialogue with the top management of both universities, and work together to realize the goal of divestment from all fossil fuel businesses. This will send out a clear signal to our society that our only hope lies in the “de-carbonization” of our economy, a move which could not be started too soon.
To help you understand the nature of the campaign as well as the enormity of the challenge we are facing, I have prepared a number of appendices. I would be more than willing to join your meetings and explain the science in detail if required.
讓我再說一次，如果閣下是八大院校的在學學生或畢業生，請在同學和校友之間發起有關的討論，進而加入全球大學生促使母校進行去碳撤資（divestment from fossil fuel）的行動。新一輪對抗全球暖化的國際氣候會議將於今年12月在巴黎召開，全球的輿論取向將是這次會議成敗的關鍵！
Professor Peter Mathieson
President and Vice-Chancellor
The University of Hong Kong
Dear Professor Mathieson,
Let me introduce myself. I am a HKU BSc graduate of 1978. Prior to my retirement in 2008, I had been an Assistant Curator of the Hong Kong Space Museum, Senior Scientific Officer of the Royal Observatory Hong Kong, and Vice-Principal of the HKU SPACE Community College. I am now a member of the government’s Science Musuem Advisory Panel, as well as a member of the Instituional Review Board of HKU/Hospital Authority HK West Cluster.
I am now writing to you – as an alumnus and also a citizen of Hong Kong – in the hope of urging my alma mater to take up the call of the Global Divestment Campaign (http://gofossilfree.org/) ,and hence gradually divest her funds from all fossil fuel industry. This will be a means to combat the ongoing crisis of global warming and catastrophic climate change. It will also be an act of great symbolic value in raising the awareness of the public in this issue, similar to the ban on shark’s fin in all official meals championed by HKU a decade ago.
Last Saturday, I attended the annual joint seminar of the HKU and CUHK Convocations, and took the opportunity to make this appeal for divestment by the two universities. I am glad to say that the response was highly positive. An open letter to the two Convocations is attached for your reference.
As a scientist yourself, I am sure you are aware of the gravity of the challenge humankind is facing. And yet the gap between what is being done and what needs to be done is enormous, and time is running out fast. Similar to what I have stated in the aforementioned letter, I would be more than willing to visit your goodself and the SMT to explain the science in greater detail if required.