Effective Environmentalism is a community that seeks to empower people like you to engage with environmentalism in the most effective ways possible.
This page is a guide to help you find climate-related careers, engage with climate action advocacy, give you an intuition for how to make your donations have the largest impact, and much much more. We aim to improve and expand this guide over time.
One of the most effective ways you can contribute to a cause is to work on it directly - especially if it is a good fit for you, and you could do the job better than the next person.
80,000 Hours’ career guide gives a comprehensive introduction on how to have an impactful career whilst still being satisfying for you. The guide makes the point that your career decisions will be significantly affected by your personal situation, including how:
Where you live affects the impact of your actions.
Your personal fit and motivations make you better suited for some actions over others.
You can be resilient to changes in the global context.
Below we’ve briefly outlined some possible career paths to give you an overview of potential career paths in this space and hopefully help you map the climate change landscape better. This list is far from exhaustive, and there may be several niches that require unique or specialized skill sets.
Note: When evaluating different options for yourself, your personal circumstances will likely make one or the other path much more or less effective. Therefore, we have chosen not to directly compare across career paths but instead highlight why a person might be a good fit for a given path. This article is in a preliminary stage, so that we will be adding more research to these career profiles over time. Keep in mind that you can also complement your career choices with other lifestyle choices.
There are many ways to become an advocate. For climate change, exceptionally impactful roles could be political positions, management, or grantmaking at influential climate organizations, as well as being part of lobbying interest groups.
But keep in mind that your chances of success and the impact you make if you succeed are very country-specific when it comes to advocacy. For example, if you’re in an EU country, advocacy might be more tractable, but it is also possible that the most effective solutions are already being championed by others. In developing countries, Advocacy may be a neglected area, but in this case, your chances of success may be less certain.
Activism is one of the most common forms of advocacy. Activities include protests, rallies, signing petitions, and boycotting. Fridays for Future is an example of small-scale advocacy that became a global movement. Smaller activist actions that seem quite effective include writing to your politicians, calling your congressman, or sending letters to news-editors. These kinds of activities can make a big difference if only a few people are doing them. You can also encourage people you know to take action with you and multiply your activity’s overall effect within your community.
However, activism is far from the only form of advocacy. Below, we list a few others:
Political Advocacy. Getting involved in party politics can be the most direct route to influencing climate policy. Whether to get involved in local politics can depend on many factors, such as your personality, what party, the political climate, etc. If you want to enter politics, there are many non-competitive roles where you might have leverage.
Asides from electoral politics, many civil servant positions could let you advocate for the climate.
The potential downside is that party politics is time-consuming and can derail your focus to issues that are more related to your career than climate advocacy. The effectiveness also depends on the nature and dynamics of the electoral politics of your area. For example, it is harder for Green parties to gain representative power and influence in countries with the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system (UK, USA) than in countries where the electoral system is based on proportional representation forms. In the UK and other FPTP electoral systems, direct action and grassroots activism might be more effective than getting involved as a party member, hoping to change the nature of the political system.
However, if there is a prominent Green party or a party that is moderately Green in its values, it would make sense to work for pushing it to adopt more green policies and more effective strategies.
Advocacy in Academia & Education. Education and educational institutions are also great routes for advocacy. Professors, teachers, and students can influence their school culture by demanding change. A lot of research has been done on the effectiveness of such methods, and it is relatively effective compared to many other routes.
Moreover, interdisciplinary sustainability degrees are increasingly common, and some universities offer climate and sustainability MOOCs for all their students. To give a few examples:
The University of St Andrews was the first UK university to make a short sustainability course part of the matriculation process.
The University of Helsinki is co-creating a sustainability course with students and staff.
The University of Helsinki also has several MOOCs relating to climate and circular economy.
A lot of research is already concerning itself with Climate Change, and your impact could vary greatly depending on which field you enter. If you’re early in your career, you might want to investigate the most promising interventions and then evaluate which skills are most needed within them before diving into research.
If you’re considering a career in academic research, then this profile on academic research from 80,000 Hours covers some key considerations on your path. They list ways to have an impact as an academic inside and outside of research, as well as potential pitfalls on this path, such as misalignment of incentives in academia.
Examples of some particularly neglected topics to do research on include:
Researching and implementing the best strategies for cooperation and leveraging collective action to enact change on tractable solutions.
Studying climate change as an existential risk
Nudging donations that are already committed to climate change to have more impact. Some groups are already doing this, such as Founders’ Pledge and IDInsight’s new beta program, Giving Green.
Research on the flow-through effects of climate change interventions, especially riskier ones such as geoengineering, could be important as such interventions get more traction.
One theme growing in research is Meta research. Meta research aggregates existing knowledge or combines several sources of knowledge together (e.g., Climate Economics). Such research may not be incentivized by existing institutions but could be incredibly valuable to make recommendations to decision-makers. Civil servants, think tanks, and other climate nonprofits do such research, and can sometimes have a good degree of autonomy to produce high-quality work. Other kinds of meta-work could include pedagogical research such as the dissemination of information in a way that encourages people to take action or coordinate better on climate change efforts. Don’t Even Think About it by George Marshall explores some of the challenges on climate communication.
If you are a student interested in conducting high-impact climate research, we recommend checking out the research recommendations in the Effective Thesis project and signing up for their personalized 1-1 coaching to help you find a good topic.
Another way that you can contribute is to go into innovative fields such as clean energy, clean meat, or clean transportation. You don’t need to be an engineer to contribute - there are other important roles, for example in marketing, supply chain management, and others.
If you’re a technologist, this guide may be of use to you.
Founding or working for effective charities
Many attempts to do good fail, but the best are exceptional. We think founding charities which focus on effective interventions could be a very promising path. Charity Entrepreneurship incubates high-impact charities and we can consult you on this. We speculate that it could be impactful to work or intern for any of the recommended charities or promising organizations on our charity recommendations page.
Working as a grant evaluator
Billions of dollars have been pledged to climate change efforts by independent philanthropists. Working as a grantmaker could help you influence how those dollars are spent and increase the effectiveness of current spending in the space. Caveat: you may not be able to have a ton of influence depending on the foundation. Read this career profile for more information.
Choosing an earning-to-give career means choosing a career path that is especially lucrative, or work for employers who offer generous donations matching your salary. You can learn more about neglected giving opportunities and charity recommendations here.
There also exists a lot of Climate Jobs out there already. Here are a few good databases to find one that suits you. And don't fret, whilst many of the listings are based in the US there are a number of remote opportunities available as well.
Climate.Careers has hundreds of opportunities for jobs related to Project Drawdown’s recommended solutions.
Climatebase lists jobs, fellowships, and organizations in the climate space.
JobsForHumanity is a volunteer-led movement of job creation for specific causes.
For our German readers, we have found these Job Boards particularly interesting
VeganJobs assists in the discovery of vegan employment across the globe.
CellAgri Job Board lists a large number of positions related to clean meat innovation.
You can also reach out to individuals in the EA community using the Effective Environmentalism directory.
Complementing your career
If you aren’t ready to change your career to work on climate issues full-time, there are actions you can take to complement your career and even test out whether a more significant change is the right next step for you.
There has been a lot of public discussion about how lifestyle changes can contribute to climate change, but the debate has sometimes missed essential factors. In a 2019 report, Founders’ Pledge found that a country’s climate policy dramatically changes the impact of people’s lifestyle changes. One significant large-scale study outlined that eating a vegan diet could be the “single biggest way” for people to reduce their negative impact on the environment, and so combining this transition with the practice of reducing your food waste, you are well aligned with Project Drawdown’s main recommendations.
Volunteering is a great way to see whether doing direct work is a good fit for you. Volunteering allows you to have a direct impact only constrained by the time you have to set off. You can volunteer for climate advocacy organizations, citizen science projects, or your local green political party.
Volunteering for climate advocacy is a typical path to careers in advocacy, so participating in and organizing events can help you build the experience necessary to take on a leadership role in the future.
You can volunteer for a local political party aligned with your values and support climate interventions or advocate for particular policies.
Donations can be a highly cost-effective complement to lifestyle changes. By donating to effective climate charities, you redirect your money to someone in a unique position to address BIG problems. For most developed countries, an average income is hundreds of times more than the world’s poorest people have. Thus, even a small percentage of your income can have a significant impact. You can see a list of promising charities here, and a summary report by Founders’ Pledge on the climate giving landscape. For general donation advice, you can refer to this giving guide.
If you are interested in donating upwards of $1 million, Effective Giving can help you find most giving promising opportunities.
If you’re a tech founder, you can reach out to Founders’ Pledge.
You can also schedule a 1-1 call with us, and we can connect you with other relevant advisors.