The Philanthropy Gap
Spending regarding climate change is much too low given the urgency of the situation.
Larry Kramer, who heads the Hewlett Foundation, identified in a speech five years ago that climate change accounted for lower than 2% of foundation spending. He called upon “anyone who cares about our youngsters’s and grandchildren’s futures to step forward.”
The situation has gotten only a bit higher since 2017. In 2020, based on a McKinsey report, “climate and climate adjoining fields” accounted for two.2% of philanthropic spending. Lower than half that quantity went to energy or climate specifically.
Prior to now two years, there have been some very large pledges, reminiscent of $500 million from Michael Bloomberg, $750 million from Stewart and Lynda Resnick, 3.5 billion from Laurene Powell Jobs, and $10 billion from Jeff Bezos. Over time, because the pledges are converted to a funding flow, they need to push the share upward. The $1.1 billion gift from John Doerr to fund Stanford’s climate school can also be a shot within the arm.
Still, there’s an extended solution to go. As of 2020, ten times as much philanthropic funding went to public safety as to climate, environment, and energy.
Kramer called on philanthropists to assist fill the gap, and pointed to a variety of critical issues where private giving could make a giant difference. Amongst other ideas, he called for foundations to support climate actions by cities and states. But there are a lot of other possibilities, including support for local efforts to adapt to climate change, for advocacy work, for public education, and for climate research.
Within the domain I do know best, there’s a pressing need for added funding for work on policy-relevant research and education. The federal government has poured money into science and engineering research regarding climate and energy. But much less has gone to the social sciences, or to law and policy.
Funding for climate work in law school research centers and clinics, in public policy schools, and by environmental economists could be especially useful. We also need funding for mechanisms to make sure that this research becomes a part of the policy process.
I might also argue for funding directed on the U.S. South, particularly Texas and Florida given their sizes. The South is an inhospitable place for environmental work, which has caused national environmental groups to draw back from making major investments there. But for the very reason that the South is inhospitable, it is particularly essential to make inroads there.
The resources surely exist to do more. There are a lot of really wealthy people in America. As of 2020, there were 614 billionaires in America. The 400 richest Americans had a combined net value of $3.2 trillion. That’s not counting all of the individuals who “merely” have a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of dollars at their disposal. More of them have to get lively in coping with climate change. Surely at the least some of those people care about their children and grandchildren.
The wealthy may or may not have a greater moral obligation than the remainder of us, but they’ve more capability to assist. As Kramer put it, “[f]unders must recognize that global warming threatens all the things they care about, and that’s true regardless of what they care about. Climate change is the most important, most vital problem of our time, and as such, it’s an issue all of us have to help solve.” Time to ante up!
P.S. No crypto please.