Following the outcry of nearly 150 scientists across the world, the American Museum of Natural History in New York announced on Monday it has cut many of its financial ties to coal, oil, and natural gas companies, according to environmental group 305.org.
The prestigious New York museum was confronted by 148 climate scientists who signed an open letter last year urging all museums of science and natural history in the US to cut their ties to the fossil fuel industry.
In response, the museum's chief investment officer explained they have been reviewing their investments “in light of sustainability considerations” since 2014 and have subsequently cut their indirect holdings with the fossil fuel industry. They were quick to highlight they have had no direct investments in any fossil fuel companies. However, they said they had indirect holdings through “pooled investment funds” with fossil fuel companies featured on the Carbon Underground 200.
“Museums are among the most trusted institutions in society. They educate the public and shape culture. A $21 billion dollar industry, the museum sector sees more visitors annually than sporting events and theme parks combined,” Elizabeth Wylie from the American Alliance of Museums’ sustainability professional association said in a statement. “Museums that divest from industries that harm the environment and threaten our collective future are using their bully pulpit well.”
The American Museum of Natural History is not the first to take this kind of action. A handful of other international museums have dropped sponsorship deals, severed investment, or cut indirect holdings with fossil fuel companies in recent years. Meanwhile, many museums have been under fire for their sponsorship of big oil. Last year, oil giant Shell sponsored a climate change program at the Science Museum in London and faced allegations it “sought to influence” its content. That sponsorship deal has since not been renewed.
Outside of the museums, investors from all fields are withdrawing money from the fossil fuel sector, in what's being called the fastest divestment of any industry ever, according to a 2013 study led by the University of Oxford, UK.
“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,” added Beka Economopoulos, of the mobile and pop-up museum The Natural History Museum, added. “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.”