Jun 15, 2022 • 1HR 2M

Volts podcast: Johannes Ackva on effective climate altruism

Puzzling through the best way to spend money on climate.

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Volts is a podcast about leaving fossil fuels behind. I've been reporting on and explaining clean-energy topics for almost 20 years, and I love talking to politicians, analysts, innovators, and activists about the latest progress in the world's most important fight. (Volts is entirely subscriber-supported. Sign up!)
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Say you’re a private individual (or a company, or a foundation) who cares about climate change and has some money to spend on it. What’s the best way to spend that money? How can you ensure the largest possible impact?


Similar questions about maximizing philanthropic impact have led to an entire field of study and practice known as “effective altruism,” which seeks to apply logical and empirical rigor to do-gooderism. But it is only very recently that effective altruists have turned their attention to climate change.

Johannes Ackva
Johannes Ackva

One of the leading EA voices on climate is Johannes Ackva. He’s a researcher at Founders Pledge, an organization through which business owners and entrepreneurs donate a portion of their earnings to charity. For years, Ackva has been thinking through the puzzle of how best to channel climate philanthropy, given the structure of the problem and the politics around it.

If you’re interested in what groups Founders Pledge has chosen for its donations, you can find a list on the website, but I was more interested in the thinking that led Ackva to those recommendations. Given the enormous spatial and temporal scales involved in climate change, the many social and political complexities, the extensive and irreducible uncertainties, how can a well-meaning donor have any confidence in their choices?

I found our conversation quite enlightening — a new lens through which to view this familiar problem — it and I think you will too.