A group of British scientists wrote to the top 100 wealthiest charitable organizations and people in the United Kingdom and pled for them to help protect the environment and fight climate change.
According to the letter’s authors, less than 3 percent of charitable funding goes to climate and environmental issues. “The rate of deforestation, of carbon emissions, of species extinction, of land degradation are a threat to us all,” they wrote. “We implore you to urgently consider significant investment to prevent further ecological catastrophe—whether through your personal investments or your philanthropy.”
The 11 scientists who signed the letter are highly distinguished professionals, not just in the UK but in the larger science community. They include the physicists Myles Allen from Oxford and Joanna Haigh of Imperial College; the psychologist Lorraine Whitmarsh from Cardiff University; and Sir David King, former UK government chief scientist.
The letter itself was coordinated by Angela Terry of the climate change-fighting nonprofit organization Climate Alliance. “We need the investment to rapidly adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change that are already being felt,” she told the BBC. “Let’s invest in EV charging infrastructure alongside educational programs so people know it is perfectly okay to take an EV into a car wash. Let’s combine flood defenses with action plans to protect the most vulnerable members of our community from extreme weather.”
Sophie Marple, founder of an educational nonprofit called the Gower St. Foundation, said, “We never previously focused on climate change—but I’ve been shocked given the enormity of the threat, how under-resourced the space is.”
Dr. John Smith, director of the Royal Geographical Society, agreed. “There has long been under-investment in environmental issues, and especially climate change, by philanthropists,” he said. “This reflects, in part, that the [missions] of many charities, trusts, and foundations was set decades ago.
It’s likely that some of the people who received the letters, including British billionaires the Hinduja family, the Reuben brothers, and the gas magnate Sir Jim Ratcliffe, will feel that it’s the job of the government, not private philanthropy, to address climate change and other such overarching global catastrophes.
Contrast that with the attitude in present-day America, where many people believe the government shouldn’t be doing anything to fight climate change or help the nation’s most vulnerable populations because private philanthropy should do that. Private philanthropy’s response to that attitude is to say something along the lines of, “We’re already doing all we can, and there’s no way a nonprofit can replace the scale of a government when working on these issues.”
“The challenge is vast—and philanthropists and charitable foundations can play a transformational role in safeguarding the well-being of humanity,” Terry said.