Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and the world’s richest man, has just pledged $10 billion to help tackle the climate crisis, one of the greatest threats facing humanity today. He has named the initiative the Bezos Earth Fund and says it will begin issuing grants to scientists, activists, and NGOs working to protect our globe this summer.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos wrote in a statement posted to Instagram. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”
Bezos is worth $130 billion in total, so the money he is pledging is worth about 8 percent of his wealth. At a time when the world’s politicians are failing to act fast enough to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that directly lead to global warming, this donation is welcome news. The money will go towards scientists studying climate change and how best to tackle it, as well as activists and NGOs working to protect the environment.
“This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs – any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world,” Bezos wrote. “We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.”
The first few months of 2020 have served as a bleak reminder of the trouble our planet is currently in. Antarctica, known for its vast ice sheets and bitterly cold climate, has broken not one but two temperature records this month. On February 6, scientists recorded a temperature of 18.3°C (64.9°F) on the Antarctic Peninsula – the hottest temperature ever recorded on the mainland. On February 9, off the coast of the mainland on Seymour Island, Antarctica rose above 20°C (68°F) for the first time, hitting a balmy 20.75°C (69.35°F). A warming south pole means melting ice sheets, which wreaks havoc on the wildlife reliant on the ice and contributes to rising sea levels, posing a threat to the world’s coastal communities.
And that’s not all 2020 has brought us so far. Like something out of the Book of Exodus, an enormous plague of locusts, unlike anything seen in recent years, has been pushing its way through East Africa, devouring vital crops. The ravenous insects, which can eat their weight in plants each day, are particularly numerous this year thanks to recent weather conditions linked to climate change. Future warming will only make these devastating swarms a more regular occurrence in years to come.
Australia’s aggressive fires and flash floods have also been linked to climate change, with experts warning that extreme weather events like these will only be exacerbated as the planet warms.
But there is some hope. Swift policy changes that curb our carbon emissions, as well as investment in solutions to climate change, could help us mitigate the crisis before it’s too late.
“Many emerging technologies, like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), need a financial shot in the arm to get them scaled up fast,” said Professor Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management, executive director of Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation at the University of Edinburgh, commenting on Bezos’ announcement. “Other solutions, like expansion of climate-smart farming or universal waste water treatment, may be less eye-catching but they are no less crucial in terms of cutting emissions and providing greater resilience to the impacts of climate change.”
Imperial College London’s Professor Richard Templar added that we must also work to avoid large-scale species extinctions. “Returning habitats at scale is important for all species, including Homo sapiens, and has direct benefits for reducing atmospheric CO2 and global heating,” he said.
Hopefully, the Bezos Earth Fund will provide these areas with a much-needed cash boost, helping to protect our unique planet for generations to come. As Bezos puts it: “Earth is the one thing we all have in common – let’s protect it, together.”