Honoree Melinda Gates speaks onstage as Helen Keller International celebrates their centennial anniversary with the 2015 Spirit Of Helen Keller Gala on May 18, 2015 at The New York Public Library in New York City. Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Helen Keller International

By Karl Mathiesen, Harry Davies, and James Ball
23 May 2015 02.00 EDT

(The Guardian) – Senior scientific figures, including influential climate researcher Michael Mann, have called on the world’s two leading health charities to review their fossil fuel investments in light of a series of Guardian investigations published this week.

The Big Carbon investigations uncovered examples of industry misinformation campaigns, legal transgressions and alleged human rights abuses.

Mann, along with other senior scientists and commentators, said the immense moral authority of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust was in danger of being undermined by their continued investments in companies with such questionable corporate practices.

The series of investigations revealed:

  • According to internal documents, oil company Royal Dutch Shell assumes a rise in global temperatures of 4C, twice the 2C limit widely considered the threshold for dangerous climate change – in contrast to public pronouncements from Shell’s chief executive that the company is committed to tackling climate change.
  • Oil services company Schlumberger has received a record-breaking fine for repeated and deliberate breaches of US sanctions against Iran and Sudan.
  • Oil giant BP pursued and signed a partnership with Russian state oil and gas giant Rosneft, which is currently subject to sanctions for its actions in Ukraine and the Crimea. Rosneft has also been characterised as one of the most expansionist fossil fuel extractors in the world, and is aggressively pursuing Arctic oil extraction.
  • BP is also accused of serious human right breaches in Colombia. A trade union leader, Gilberto Torres, is bringing a high court action in London against the company over its alleged complicity in his kidnap and torture for organising a strike to try and close a major oil pipeline there. He was held for 42 days in 2002. BP denies the claims and said it will “vigorously” defend the case.
  • US coal giant Peabody Energy was accused by international health experts of exploiting the Ebola health crisis in order to justify the continued extraction of coal.

A Guardian analysis of the $43bn (£27.5bn) Gates Foundation’s most recent tax filing in 2013 found that it held $1.4bn of investments in the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, including $372m in BP, $5.5m in Shell and $1.7m in Peabody Energy. Wellcome’s $28bn endowment holds $229m in Shell, $191m in BP and $185 in Schlumberger. It does not hold any direct investment in Peabody Energy.

The investigations are part of the Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign which is calling on both charities to divest from fossil fuels. Both have made a huge contribution to human wellbeing through their work on health research and development. [more]

Leading health charities should divest from fossil fuels, say climate scientists



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