Is there a McKibben Effect — a radical flank effect on the US climate debate? And is it positive or negative? – Vox

(Abridged version of Vox article)

New research by Todd Schifeling, former Erb-Institute Postdoctoral fellow (of Temple University) and Andy Hoffman (Erb Institute faculty member), is forthcoming in the journal Organization & Environment, addresses this question in the context of the climate movement. Schifeling and Hoffman specifically reference Bill McKibben, his organization, and their relentless lobbying to encourage divestment from fossil fuels by large stockholders and the effect this may have had on the climate change debate.

Goals of the research were to evaluate whether there are important indirect effects from radical flanking; postulating that even if a radical campaign does not achieve its own stated goals, it may yet cause important shifts elsewhere in the debate.

This, more or less, is what they speculate is true of McKibben/’s divestment campaign.  There was a populist movement in 2010 where university students began requesting that their universities divest their fossil fuel investments. McKibben and 350 have carried that torch and, as of today, have 749 participating institutions, worth about $5.53 trillion in investments.

“Schifeling and Hoffman acknowledge that the divestment movement has not — and, realistically, probably cannot — accomplish its goal of substantially affecting the financial health of large fossil fuel companies.”

However, “the radical position of divestment helped recenter the US climate debate around alternative solutions (rather than “do nothing” versus “do something”) in an enduring way — or at least enduring so far (more on that in a second too).”

Read the full article on Vox here.