The fight against climate change depends both on new knowledge and technological innovation. Without scientific research, we would know nothing about the reasons for climate change, not to talk about its future trajectory. Research has resulted in technologies that help to mitigate climate change such as wind- and solar power, more efficient lighting, or modern battery technologies (Nature 2022).
Big and small funders alike have a role to play in Research & Development. Smaller funders can directly support outstanding researchers e.g. through fellowships, or specific projects e.g. by piloting technological innovations. By providing long-term financial security, large funders have an exceptional capacity to shape entire research infrastructures and fields. The Bezos Earth Fund, for example, has awarded 30 million USD to the Salk Institute for research enhancing plants to capture and store more carbon to offset climate change. Often these large funding commitments build on pioneering research initially supported by smaller grants.
- Funding Research & Development goes beyond traditional grants for research projects and institutes towards shaping the context in which those take place. Collaboration between different disciplines is one example. It is crucial for understanding complex topics such as climate change. Equally, opening up access to research results removes an important barrier for translating research into practice.
- Philanthropy and science are great partners when it comes to developing innovative solutions as both have the freedom to pursue untreaded paths. Funding in Research & Development cannot guarantee results such as specific insights or technological innovations. But its potential impact is significant, e.g., in case of a successful emergence of a ground-breaking technology. Compared to public or private funders of Research & Development, philanthropy is well positioned to take that risk because it is not restricted to public opinion or pursuit of financial profit.
- Scientific evidence importantly informs political and economic decisions as well as legal ones. In this sense, scientific findings, for example on the causal links between climate change and health problems, provide an increasingly important basis for argumentation in court (Schiermeier 2021). Funding for Research & Development can have important knock-on effects. Promoting these effects go beyond support for research and technological development and includes facilitating the transfer of scientific knowledge, e.g. to courts.
Nature (2022): How researchers can help fight climate change in 2022 and beyond. In Nature 601 (7891), p. 7. DOI: 10.1038/d41586-021-03817-4.
Schiermeier, Quirin (2021): Climate science is supporting lawsuits that could help save the world. News Feature. In Nature. Available online at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02424-7, checked on 8/16/2022.