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Report reviews how smart donating can help solve the climate crisis — and highlights some of the top charities deemed worthy of donations

"Effective altruism doesn't play well with most environmental ethics theories."

"Effective altruism doesn't play well with most environmental ethics theories."

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It's not always easy, or even possible, to know how much of the money we donate is actually helping the causes we are attempting to support. But one comprehensive report from 2018 attempted to quantify which climate-focused nonprofits generated the most results per dollar.

What did the report say?

The Climate Change Cause Area Report, from John Halstead, who was then head of applied research at Founders Pledge, ultimately recommended the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and Clean Air Task Force as its top two organizations.

In 2020, The New York Times also identified a few other nonprofits as being especially cost-effective in their missions to fight for the health of our planet. These included BURN, an organization that pays for fuel-efficient stoves in Kenya, the Clean Energy Innovation Program, ImpactMatters, and Eden Reforestation Projects.

The Times also spoke to a research scientist at NASA, who recommended Project Drawdown, the N.A.A.C.P. Environmental and Climate Justice Program, and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, and to a law professor and executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, who recommended the Environmental Protection Network.

How is the most cost-effective nonprofit being determined?

Clearly, there is no shortage of organizations that are working on climate solutions and are accepting donations. But what is the methodology to determine which ones should get your money?

For the Founders Pledge report, the research was inspired by the philosophy of "effective altruism," which in theory uses math and data to figure out which charities are the most effective. 

Effective altruism has faced a lot of criticism recently, however, as some of its most famous proponents have been revealed to be or accused of being corrupt and "delusional."

The philosophy of effective altruism has been criticized on its merits as well, especially when it comes to climate nonprofits. 

"Effective altruism doesn't play well with most environmental ethics theories, in part because in the universe of effective altruism, only entities that can suffer matter. Trees, rivers, species — none of these are intrinsically valuable," reported Sierra magazine.

Of course, this does not indicate that any of the above nonprofits are ineffective or not worthy of donations — it simply indicates that the perfect methodology for determining the best charity has yet to be invented. But don't let that discourage you from trying to do your part to help ensure the future health of our planet.

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