How rich Americans can save the planet from climate change

Ask half a dozen people what the most important problem facing humankind is, and chances are they’ll look back to the earth’s imminent collapse from global warming and apocalypse in the near future.

America’s 65 wealthiest people are particularly concerned about that possibility, as most American citizens are not, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll. The Super 100 have committed a collective $135 million to nonprofit organizations working on climate change, though they, too, believe that solving the problem will require far more private philanthropy.

Super 100 CEO Kathryn M. Wylde recently responded to the Journal’s piece with her own news story, about a woman who managed to save thousands of species in the Amazon. Wylde cited 2,000 people with “enough money, connections and connections to influence decision-makers in Washington and persuade them to fund the right scientific research and cleanup efforts” as the key to saving the planet from extreme climate change.

Financial backing for science will be particularly critical in dealing with one issue on which everyone agrees: biodiversity loss. That problem will only get worse as the climate keeps changing. Scoring points on climate change research can motivate other people to better fund biotechnology research in developing countries, biotech tax breaks, the end of oil subsidies, and the like.

How rich Americans will choose to contribute to protecting biodiversity and the environment from climate change isn’t clear yet. Wylde floated a few ideas in her presentation, including, “Not only must we collectively safeguard the environment, but we also need to take personal responsibility by not being in a position to damage it.”

I vote for some of the Super 100 making the most immediate impact in part by displaying an awareness of the Earth’s peril, and by buying fossil fuel-powered vehicles that have a little bit of hybrid technology. The Super 100 have a median net worth of $75.4 billion. Their average age is 50 years old, and 83 percent of them are female.

Here’s a collection of past Environmental Protection Agency news releases regarding fossil fuel industry funding in addressing climate change:

The Friends of the Earth is one of the largest environmental nonprofits in the United States. FOTF scientists push for that industry’s assessment of its climate change footprint (among other things), while other FOTF scientists report on how Earth’s wildlife is weathering and adapting to climate change. FOTF requires environmental groups to accept unrestricted corporate and labor contributions, and to note those donations in their annual financial reports. FOTF scientists have published more than 130 peer-reviewed studies on corporate-funded studies on climate change. Some of these studies have been critical of FOTF’s approach to corporate-funded studies.

On the flip side, the EPA has published a number of its own studies, including this one from 2012 reporting on oil and coal companies’ contribution to land carbon release and carbon dioxide emissions (PDF):

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