Philanthropy must stop fiddling while the world burns

Australian bush fires
Bush fire in Kimberley, Australia. Photo credit: John Crux Photography via Getty Images.

Writing in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer makes an urgent call to action to philanthropic organizations to increase climate giving:

What should grantmakers do when the social and political and environmental circumstances that have made our work and progress possible begin falling apart? Because, make no mistake, that is what’s happening now as a result of climate change. The damage to our planet is already burdening our political and economic systems, but these stresses will grow exponentially in the coming years — ravaging the lives of our children and their children for many generations unless we act to mitigate climate change now. One needn’t believe that global warming will cause the end of civilization as we know it to recognize the crushing demands it will put on our physical, economic, political, and social systems, with devastating consequences for everyone.

Certainly philanthropy can play a role alleviating these perils. Philanthropic support alone won’t eliminate them, obviously — no more than it can, alone, eliminate poverty, racism, or any other societywide challenge. Philanthropy can, however, play a pivotal role creating the conditions for government and business leaders, whose reach is greater, to act. Ways and means to do so abound. Yet the amount of global philanthropy aimed at putting the world on the path to a reasonable climate future is disgraceful — there’s no other word for it — with no more 3 percent of giving addressed to global warming.

This is profoundly, unfathomably, maddeningly shortsighted. Any grantmaker who just chugs along on the same issues without addressing climate is, truly, fiddling while the world burns — particularly given the certainty that whatever short-term progress is made through these efforts will be lost if climate change continues unchecked.

Read the full op-ed.

Search Our Grantmaking

By Keyword