Fossil Fuel Donations

The Problem

We know that fossil fuel companies have concealed, trivialized, and neglected the science of climate change for decades.

Unfortunately, fossil fuel companies show no signs of change. Eight years after the Paris Agreement and five years after the IPCC report on 1.5 °C of warming, no major fossil fuels companies have business plans compatible with net zero emissions by 2050.

Between 2012 and 2021, Columbia accepted at least $19,582,950 million in donations from 23 fossil fuel corporations, including Koch Industries, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and BP.

Note: the 2016 and 2020 figures are likely severely underestimated as we are unable to locate SIPA annual reports for those years.

By accepting funds from these corporations, universities jeopardize the integrity of research and undermine academic freedom.

Fossil fuel companies rely on relationships with elite universities to burnish their image and extend their social license to operate.

In a leaked 2019 email, Bob Stout, former VP at BP, wrote:

[Relationships with Columbia] are key parts of our long-term relationship building and outreach to policy makers and influencers in the US and globally

Bob Stout, former Vice President and Head of Regulatory Affairs at BP p.l.c.

A History of Oil and Gas Influence

The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), located on an 189-acre campus in Palisades, New York, is one of the leading earth science research centers. Among other achievements, LDEO researchers coined the term “global warming” and provided the first evidence to support the theory of plate tectonics and continental drift.

Lamont was founded in 1949 as the “Lamont Geological Observatory” on the estate of Thomas W. Lamont, a banker at J.P. Morgan. In 1969 the Observatory was renamed to “Lamont-Doherty” after a substantial gift by the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation. Henry Doherty was an oilman who founded the Cities Service Company (now Citgo). Thus oil money runs deep within Lamont’s legacy.