Pew Warms to Climate Change

  • Public-Policy Reform
  • 1988

In 1988, the Pew Charitable Trusts, whose resources derive from Sun Oil, offered a $120,000 gift to the University of California at Santa Barbara to study “the impact of climate change on northern temperate forest reserves.” Since then, climate change has been a major priority of Pew, one of the largest and most powerful philanthropies in the country.

In 1998, for instance, Pew put up $12 million to launch the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. It produced nearly 100 reports, had witnesses testify before Congress 30 times, and worked to influence regional and international talks on setting new climate and energy policies. The organization is now known as the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and continues its work with an annual budget of around $4 million and support from the Hewlett, Rockefeller Brothers, Energy, and Alcoa foundations.

In 2002, Pew converted itself from private foundation to public charity, so it could not only provide funds for public-policy causes but also lobby and raise funds from others on their behalf, putting “an emphasis on action.” In 2007, for instance, it played a major role in launching the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group wholly focused on lobbying for government controls on greenhouse gases. The Pew Charitable Trusts currently spend about $300 million every year, with a strong focus on influencing public policy.