Philanthropedia Blog

Bay Area Climate Change

February 25th, 2010 by Erinn Andrews Leave a reply »

We are excited to launch research on a number of new social causes! We’re starting with a bundle of 4 local Bay Area causes and we’ll spread out the start of each survey by a few days or a week. At the start of each survey launch, we’ll share a blog post about the cause we’ll be studying. The purpose of sharing this additional information is to explain why we think these are interesting or relevant areas to research, what we learned about the nuances of the cause, and the difficulties we faced in narrowing the scope of the research, so you, the reader, can understand what we considered as we refined our thinking about the research.

If you are an expert on any of these topics, you should be receiving an email from us soon and we hope you will be compelled to participate! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact me at

Additionally, I’m sure I haven’t been able to capture every nuance in these sectors, so I invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might think about this work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, I hope you will learn something new and tune in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!


Last summer, we conducted research to identify high-impact nonprofits working on climate change at the national level. However, as we thought about what additional causes to consider in the Bay Area, we realized that climate change is also a very important and meaningful cause at the local level. Here’s some of the reasoning why (starting at the national level and zooming into the Bay Area):

Climate change is a timely and important topic in the US. In the last few decades, scientific research has shown the effects that carbon emissions and other human-made pollutants in our atmosphere have had on global temperatures. These startling and sobering results have caused a number of environmental organizations to shift their focus to climate change mitigation.

Climate change is a relevant local cause as well. The Bay Area has a long history of involvement in the environment, especially around topics such as land conservation and open-space protection. And Silicon Valley specifically, (home to many tech start-ups) has a history of innovation around green tech, renewable energy, and sustainability. While there is work to be done at the national and corporate level, progress toward climate mitigation can also be made at the local level. Here, the Bay Area is uniquely suited to lead the way in reducing ones carbon footprint.

Individuals in the Bay Area are also in a position to help lessen the effects of climate change. Many of today’s solutions for climate mitigation at the individual and home-level are expensive, but because of the disproportionate wealth in these communities, individuals are at the forefront of adopting new policies and behaviors to work toward a solution. Therefore, research focused on climate change in the Bay Area is a timely, relevant, and interesting topic because of the unique combination of California history, entrepreneurial capacity, and individual financial strength and willingness to change.

Climate change has also been in the news lately at the state level. In 2006, California passed AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act mandating that by 2020, California reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. However, in light of the state’s financial crisis, some politicians have proposed suspending the act for some period of time until the state is more financially stable. This would have major negative implications for the nonprofits working to mitigate the effects of climate change and for the community in general.

Who cares? Problem Statements

The experts with whom I spoke identified a number of problems that nonprofits might be trying to address around climate change. Here are a few examples that range from general to specific:

  • Climate change is accelerating at a dangerously rapid pace due to human actions which is detrimental to the earth and the species that inhabit it.
  • 40-50% of the greenhouse gas emissions in California come from cars and trucks.
  • Emissions from transit vehicles are detrimental to the environment because they increase the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere which contributes to the premature acceleration of global warming. As temperatures on Earth rise, polar ice caps melt which cause the sea level to rise. With over 800 miles of shoreline, California is particularly vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise.
  • As the state falls deeper into economic distress, climate change is seen as less urgent to address.

Scope of the Research

If Philanthropedia were interested in policy solutions alone, we would have more seriously considered looking at climate change at the state level. However, because of the Bay Area’s unique positioning, we think this more local level of analysis is equally valuable. Additionally, we are interested in identifying nonprofits that have a variety of approaches to solving the many problems in each sector, not just those with a policy focus.

Therefore, the scope of this research will be broad and could include organizations focused on transportation, energy, biodiversity, land use, agricultural activities, sustainable conservation, etc. We will ask experts to identify climate change nonprofits that could be policy organizations, research groups, trade associations, advocacy groups, utility commissions, traditional nonprofits or community based organizations, and/or energy commissions. Specifically excluded from consideration will be for-profit organizations such as solar or green tech companies, green architects, or climate/energy consultants.

To the climate change experts out there, I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface with these observations. I invite you to contribute your thoughts as well. In your opinion, what are the main problems that climate change nonprofits are trying to address in the Bay Area? Why is this topic unique to this region? What additional context is necessary to understand the complexity of this issue?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

1 comment

  1. Climate change is quite on the rise these days, so be prepaired for more weather disasters”`

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