Rising to the Challenge

Philanthropy is propelling a broad range of interdisciplinary work across Harvard to advance solutions to the climate crisis

Rising to the Challenge


Developing technologies to store renewable energy, designing resilient cities, understanding the health effects of pollution, advocating for environmental justice to protect vulnerable communities, informing global policy and pathways to decarbonization—these are just a few examples of the work being done every day by faculty, researchers, and students across Harvard to address all aspects of the climate crisis.

Philanthropic supporters who share the University’s urgency to act are crucial partners in advancing near- and long-term solutions to the challenges of climate change.

“None of us will be spared the realities of climate change, which means we are all in this together. We must act now as citizens, as scholars, and as an institution to address this crisis on as many fronts as we possibly can. Harvard must stand among world leaders in addressing this challenge.”


Enabling a Transformative Vision

As early supporters of the vision and leadership on climate of then Harvard President Larry Bacow, Paul AB ’60, MD ’64 and Catherine “Katie” Buttenwieser were the first to give to the Presidential Fund for Climate, Sustainability, and the Environment, which has helped shape the collaborative, interdisciplinary nature of climate action at Harvard with the goal of harnessing the University’s breadth and depth of research to achieve meaningful progress.

The Buttenwiesers’ giving continues to provide flexible current-use support to be used at the discretion of the president for initiatives that may include everything from innovative climate research and faculty recruitment to technology, student support, academic programming, and cross-University collaborations.

“Katie and I wanted to help efforts to combat climate change and realized we could not do better than to support Harvard and its tremendous initiative,” says Paul Buttenwieser. “Harvard is uniquely positioned to make a difference through its research, advocacy, and teaching—to address both the science and the policy issues related to climate change.”

Engaging the World on Climate

Launched in 2022 with a foundational gift from Melanie and Jean Salata, the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability enables collaboration across Harvard and its many areas of expertise to pursue practical solutions to climate problems. A subsequent gift from an anonymous donor will support the Salata Institute’s Climate Action Accelerator—a powerful new platform that aims to strategically align and amplify Harvard’s research and outreach efforts while leveraging the University’s convening power to propel real-world impact.

The Accelerator will engage decision makers across government, business, and communities early in the research process to better understand their needs and perspectives to produce concrete solutions to climate problems. It will also support faculty voices on salient climate topics, helping them to communicate their work externally with policymakers, the public, and the media. And it will provide a credible, nonpartisan platform for discussions on climate to facilitate effective dialogue through the annual Harvard Climate Symposium, public events, and digital content.

The gift will also endow a Climate Action Acceleration Professorship in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, part of a larger effort to expand and retain talented faculty working in climate, the environment, and sustainability across the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, and engineering.

“By leveraging Harvard’s strengths―the excellence of its Schools, its connections to business and government, a faculty that already includes leaders in climate research and engagement, its global reach, its convening power, its students, and its committed and influential alumni―Harvard can tackle the hard problems surrounding climate change.”


Linking Climate and Health

Since 2009, Katherine States Burke AB ’79 and her husband, T. Robert Burke, have helped launch and support the careers of more than 40 promising junior faculty across Harvard through the Burke Global Health Fellowship, based at the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI). A new gift from the couple will continue that support and expand it to include scholarship at the intersection of climate and global health.

A partnership between HGHI and the Salata Institute, the Burke Fellowship in Climate and Health will support one to two research fellows, postdoctoral scholars, or early-career faculty each year whose work is focused on interventions to climate-related health issues, particularly for understudied populations—such as residents of low- or middle-income countries or regions, children, people who are pregnant, migrant laborers, and racial or ethnic minoritized groups. At the end of their two-year fellowship, Burke Fellows will present their research findings.

“Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing the world’s population, and early-career researchers across many disciplines and Schools are thinking creatively about health impacts and solutions,” says Katherine States Burke. “Bob and I are thrilled to support this partnership at the convergence of health and climate, leveraging the strengths of HGHI and the Salata Institute and encouraging scholars to focus their careers on this massive challenge.” 

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