The potential consequences of climate change are dire and looking more challenging with each year that passes. While moves are being made in the international political community to rein in consumption and slow down the threat of climate change, that’s likely not going to be enough to prevent drastic change in the coming decades. Fortunately, many private citizens are stepping up to bat, and their philanthropic efforts could help make a difficult transition smoother.
In many ways, philanthropy is a more versatile tool to combat climate change than politics. Where politicians are beholden to lobbyists, ally nations, and the whims of their constituents regarding the laws and provisions they can pass, philanthropists are free to act in a manner driven solely by their own consciences. But it’s important for such philanthropists to take a clear and nuanced approach to their giving. Understanding where exactly their money is going can mean a big difference in how effectively it’s used.
A big benefit to philanthropists can be working in conjunction with other charitable givers. Groups like the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network serve as a de facto forum for groups organized around climate change, and their directory of charitable groups exists with the primary function of helping philanthropists work in conjunction with one another towards achieving larger and more tangible goals.
Regardless of how philanthropists organize, one of the largest threats they’ll have to tackle is public apathy towards the issue of environmental issues. While the Paris Agreement has signaled a shift towards UN member nations addressing these issues directly, some believe that these commitments won’t be enough. America’s withdrawal from the Treaty could sabotage the effectiveness of commitments altogether. Additionally, some nations are failing to address climate change issues that some scientists deem highly critical, such as when the Australian government rejected a pledge to phase out coal power by the year 2050.
In many places, this governmental antipathy is reflected in the larger population. Roughly half of all Americans believe that climate change won’t affect them, and without the public backing for climate change policies that will undoubtedly be incredibly costly, government action is bound to be slow. Philanthropy’s most important role regarding climate change issues may ultimately come down to messaging, projecting the concerns upheld by the scientific community so loudly that governments and corporations have no choice but to respond actively and effectively.