The Changing Climate of Philanthropy
Hurrine Isabel; weather patters are mathematically chaotic system

The Changing Climate of Philanthropy

The climate of environmental philanthropy is changing. While some tech moguls are spending their millions adapting a class system to Burning Man, others are fueling major global initiatives to prepare for the inevitable consequences of climate change.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its first report in seven years—a whopping 2,500 page analysis released over several months beginning last September and concluding in the spring. The IPCC’s findings reveal that climate change is almost certainly man-made, that large proportions of fossil fuels must remain untapped, and that the effects of global warming are already being felt on “all continents and across all oceans.” Also this year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) cited climate change as one of the single greatest threats to global prosperity.

The immediate effects are already manifesting themselves through higher water levels on all coasts, an increase of extreme weather conditions (hurricanes, floods, droughts), and melting ice caps. These factors have led to food shortages, lower crop yields, and displaced populations. According to the WEF such consequences will greatly exacerbate further threats to the global economy, including food insecurity and political and social instability. In other words the consensus is in: this is happening now.

Fishing with a lift net in Bangladesh. Coastal fishing communities in Bangladesh are vulnerable to flooding from sea-level rises Source: Lund University

Fishing with a lift net in Bangladesh. Coastal fishing communities in Bangladesh are vulnerable to flooding from sea-level rises
Source: Sarwar G.M. (2005), Lund University

Environmental philanthropy has been a major issue since the turn of the century. However, new endeavors are turning attention away from mitigation and towards adaptation, and the IPCC’s recent report seems to support this approach. This is not to say curbing global carbon emissions is off the table—that is still the central issue—rather, in order to maintain socioeconomic stability world bodies must figure out how to adapt to changing environmental factors that are currently irreversible.

Here’s a list of some of the leaders in environmental adaptation, or “resilience” funding:

1.  The Rockefeller Foundation

With nearly 180 grants under their belt Rockefeller’s efforts are something of a global relief effort for “millions of people around the world [for whom] the consequences of climate change are increasingly devastating.”

It has three areas of focus—Asian urban environments, African agriculture, and U.S. policy. One of Rockefeller’s more notable recent initiatives in this program is the Urban Climate Change Resilience Partnership, a $140 million fund to help 25 cities in six Asian countries, available for things like water and land-use planning, physical infrastructure and early warning systems.

2. The Kresge Foundation

One of the most proactive funders in this realm, Kresge’s priority is funding localized solutions for urban resilience that can be adapted by other cities. The focus is on helping underprivileged and poor communities combat climate change as well as reinventing municipal governing models, since just looking at a city independent of its surroundings is no longer useful.

With an annual budget of $10-15 million, Kresge’s approach also aims to improve energy efficiency in architecture and transportation.

3. The John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Notable grantees receiving funds in the millions include NatureServe, the RAND Corporation, and EcoAdapt, with those funds going towards resilience in South America, developing new metrics to gauge preparedness in state and local governments, and holding a National Adaptation Forum.

A longer list of environmental resilience foundations can be found at

So what’s to take away from the changing tides of big spending across the globe? Climate change is not some specter of the future, it is not the apocalypse, and there will be no rapture. Climate change is a challenge for humanity to get over global and political differences and work together as a planet towards our own survival—not just for our children’s generation but for life as we know it.

Posted by Zimmerman.

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