The climate change crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Every day, the impacts of climate change affect communities and ecosystems around the world. Data and evidence from numerous sources have established that climate change is strongly linked to human-driven greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and anthropogenic activity (IPCC, 2022; NASA, 2022a). Yet, contributions to, and impacts from, climate change are unevenly distributed (Fournier, 2022). Lower-income countries, and marginalized communities around the world, contribute the least to global GHG emissions but face the biggest negative impacts from climate change (Levy & Patz, 2015; Bathiany et al., 2018). Furthermore, high-income countries have yet to deliver on promises to mobilize enough climate finance to fund much-needed climate resilience activities and help domestic and international markets transition to a low-carbon economy (UNFCCC, 2022).

Despite scientists warning that even a global warming of 1 degree Celsius would trigger several tipping points1 —pushing us to a point of no return, the threshold has already been passed (Armstrong McKay et al., 2022). The increasing concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere has warmed the Earth’s average global temperature by 1.11 degrees Celsius (or 2 degrees Fahrenheit) since accurate global average temperature measurements were available in the late 19th century (NASA, 2023).

Climate change has had a destabilizing and damaging impact on global economies, human rights, and global justice (Levy & Patz, 2015; Armstrong McKay et al., 2022). Climate change- induced extreme weather events are now more likely to strike in quick succession (Gori et al., 2023; Femia & Werrell, 2015). In 2022 alone, the world experienced several climate change-induced extreme weather events, including heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and unpredictable rainfall causing flooding and droughts (NOAA, 2023). Food and water insecurity, land degradation, and displacement and migration exacerbated by climate change, all increase the possibility for political instability and conflict. Furthermore, climate change amplifies global inequalities, with the poorest and most vulnerable people bearing the brunt of the impacts (Bathiany et al., 2018).

The philanthropic sector has responded to the climate change crisis in a variety of ways on both the funding side and the nonprofit side. The beginnings of philanthropic engagement in the larger environmental sector can be traced back to the origins of liberal philanthropy in the United States (US) (Morena, 2017). Since the early 1980s and at a time when environmental degradation was recognized as a global problem, environmental funders began to take up climate change as an issue both by making grants and convening stakeholders (ibid.), with significant acceleration in the 2000s as climate change gained prominence and urgency (Kramer, 2017).

Read the full article about nonprofit spending on climate change at Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.