Climate Change Lags Behind Other Issues On Charitable Giving Despite Large Donations


Publish Date:
October 4, 2019
National Public Radio (NPR)
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A staggering $750 million donation was given to Caltech to fund climate change and sustainability research. But can private philanthropists fill in the funding gap left by the federal government?


Adapting to climate change and avoiding the worst of it is going to cost money. Now some wealthy individuals and foundations say they’re chipping in. They’ve committed more than a billion dollars for research into climate change and adaptation. Here’s NPR’s Nathan Rott on the role of philanthropy in climate finance.

ROTT: Because thus far, climate change has lagged far behind other issues when it comes to charitable giving. Alicia Seiger is the managing director of the Sustainable Finance Initiative at Stanford University. She says Americans gave more than $400 billion just last year. The amount of that that went specifically to climate research or energy innovation…

ALICIA SEIGER: It’s small, small dollars.

ROTT: Philanthropists, Seiger says, still see climate change as a niche environment or conservation issue.

SEIGER: When, in fact, it is the ultimate threat amplifier to all of the other program areas in a foundation – you know, social services, education, health.

ROTT: All areas that will be greatly affected by a changing climate. So why have philanthropists been so hesitant to give? Seiger says it’s partly due to how the issue has been politicized.

SEIGER: So, like, if you’re a public figure and you want to maintain some sort of image of neutrality, you can give to cancer research. No one’s going to judge you for that. But you put a whole bunch of money into climate and you’re labeled as a something.

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