Philanthropists and billionaires must walk the talk on climate change
The climate is warming at an alarming pace and we have little time left to slow it down. Politicians, policy-makers, scientists, advocacy groups and other experts have proposed a myriad of solutions and tactics to help tackle the problem, including President Biden’s infrastructure bill that moves this nation towards carbon-free power generation by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050.
Effective solutions to climate disruption are not cheap. Which is why it is essential that the wealthiest among us give what they can really and truly afford for public investment and prioritize much more of their giving to the climate crisis.
Out of the $450 billion in U.S. philanthropic giving in 2019, less than 2 percent — about $5 billion to $9 billion — went to climate change mitigation, according to a 2020 ClimateWorks Global Intelligence report. It’s not nearly enough.
Efforts such as the Crisis Charitable Commitment and Give While You Live campaign are encouraging the wealthy to give more now, much more than the historical norm. The nearly 700 billionaires in the United States who have made an almost incomprehensible $1.3 trillion since the COVID-19 pandemic can afford to meet the suggested 5 percent minimum for charitable giving: it would represent just $200 billion of their total $4 trillion wealth. That could solve, or at least ameliorate, a lot of problems.
Although philanthropy alone won’t solve the challenges of a warming planet, according to the report, it “can help catalyze the trillions of dollars of public sector and private sector funding that are required to enable the necessary transition toward a low-carbon global economy.”
Philanthropy, the report continues, has a singular role to play in tackling this challenge. It “can increase global ambition, support innovative solutions, scale proven mitigation strategies, and drive collaborative actions.”
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