Lukas Haynes: Bipartisan Solutions For Climate Change

"The Rockefeller Fund is committed to bringing attention to difficult problems and innovative approaches in three primary areas: Arts, criminal justice and the environment." - Lukas Haynes

Lukas Haynes is a member of the Center for Climate and Security’s Advisory Board, and Executive Director of the David Rockefeller Fund. Previously, he was Vice President of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation where he was responsible since 2006 for a philanthropic strategy to mitigate the risks of global warming, invest in low-income New York City communities, and protect human rights.

He is also an adjunct associate professor of global affairs and philanthropy at New York University. He was previously New York director of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and program officer for international peace and security.

The Global Speaker Series is a podcast partnership between the Wyoming Humanities Council and the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs.

With the goal of educating and inspiring listeners, the series interviews global thought leaders on relevant issues impacting Wyoming and the world such as the future of energy, the impacts of climate change, trends in business and entrepreneurship, foreign policy, issues impacting global coal communities, and more.

Each interview also illuminates each interviewees personal journey as part of their work and passion for what they do.

Lukas Haynes: It will, it will represent, you know, one of the, the great accomplishments of this generation just as, you know, the Greatest Generation overcame the challenges of World War II and the civil rights generation, you know, took the country into a new chapter there. I really think climate change is the moral issue and world challenge of our time.

Emy diGrappa: Hello. I'm Emy diGrappa. Each week, we bring you stories asking our guests the question why. We learn about their passion, why they do what they do, why should we care, and what can we learn? What better place to explore the human landscape than from the state known for its incredible landscapes, Wyoming, and what better organization than Wyoming Humanities, serving our state for over 45 years? We share stories, ideas, and wisdom about the human experience. This is What's Your Why?

Emy diGrappa: This interview is part of our global speaker series, a partnership between ThinkWY, Wyoming Humanities, and Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs. Today, we are talking to Lukas Haynes. He is executive director of the David Rockefeller Fund and member of the Center for Climate and Securities Advisory Board. He was educated at the College of William and Mary and Oxford University, where he earned a master's degree in international relations. Welcome, Lukas.

Lukas Haynes: Hi.

Emy diGrappa: As the executive director for the David Rockefeller Fund, what does that entail?

Lukas Haynes: So it involves most aspects of the management and, and oversight of this family foundation that was established in 1989 by David Rockefeller and his wife Peggy to carry out their charitable giving in communities where they had homes outside New York City. And then, later, the fund expanded and he invited his children and grandchildren, uh, and their spouses to take a more active role in the fund with the idea of transferring to them the family's philanthropic tradition. And, today, there are, uh, 13 family members at any one time sitting on the board of directors, uh, who, who I answer to. And, um, and, a- among the programs of grant-making that they over, that, that we all oversee, uh, our, a program for the environment, which is focused on climate change solutions and arts, which is focused on arts projects with broad social impact, and then there's also a criminal justice reform program. So that's the broad overview of, of the fund and my responsibilities.

Emy diGrappa: How can philanthropy affect the work of global warming and climate change?

Lukas Haynes: Well, it's a great question because the pro-, the problem is so enormous, but the way that, that we see it and, uh, and many small and midsize foundations around the country is that because it is so big, there's really a role for, for a great many foundations and, and philanthropic donors to help contribute to climate solutions in their own backyard or in their states or in their regions or even, you know, by focusing on, on national policy in the U.S. There are some bigger foundations that, that do a lot of work overseas.

Lukas Haynes: And our, our particular focus is on trying to, to build a bipartisan consensus for a national climate policy by helping policymakers and members of Congress understand that, among many other impacts of climate change, one of the, one of the least appreciated it its impact on, on national security and on, um, international security in- including the forced migration of people as a result of weather impacts in their regions. And there's even a geopolitical sort of aspect to the problem. Now that the Arctic is melting so fast, there's, there's more competition among great powers like the U.S., China, and even Russia for mineral resources. So that's, that's a particular aspect that we focused on and, and that, that's also why I've been involved with the Center for Climate and Security in Washington.

Emy diGrappa: Yeah, I was, I was going to say that, when I was reading your bio, I could really see that a common thread between philanthropy and global warming that has been ... those issues are woven throughout your career and so you must have an obvious passion about it.

Lukas Haynes: I do. Um, I was pretty late to the problem in the mid-2000s, but having funded problems around nuclear weapons proliferation and biological pandemics, cybersecurity, space weapons, back in the early 2000s,  I was really astonished to learn, you know, how serious the, the global climate change problem had become. And when you begin to appreciate the science and how it's going to affect every aspect of our economy and society, um, and our security, it's not hard to become deeply passionate about trying to, to be part of the solution set. And then, of course, you know, when you become a parent, which I did in the, the mid-2000s, you, you think about the longer term impact of the problem on our children and, and grandchildren, and it's really pretty humbling to think about how human society, you know, is, is, is making such vast changes, forcing such vast changes on the planet and, and changes that are going to be felt for generations. So that, that's sort of the root, the root of the passion.

Emy diGrappa: And so, just in layman's terms, it's really hard to understand what, what is the argument, how is it bipartisan, what is the issue that people can't agree on about climate change and global warming?

Lukas Haynes: Well, for a long time, there was confusion, which actually was, was deliberately sown by various corporate and media actors about the science. The s-, the science of global climate change has been settled for a long time. I mean, there's just a, a vast and deep consensus about how human, human society and, and industry has, has driven these changes in, in the atmosphere and, and also those changes are felt in the oceans as well. And I, I think, I think the time when there was, you know, sort of the most fierce partisanship and difference over the problem itself is behind us. In, in the last few months, the last year, um, there's, there's really been a, a growing bipartisan recognition. Um, one manifestation of that is a bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the Congress and there still isn't broad enough and, and deep enough support for a national climate policy, but the beginning of that, that consensus is, is already there.

Lukas Haynes: And I think we're moving quickly past the kind of debate about the, the, the origins and the problem itself and into a debate about the best way to tackle it and, and the simple reality is there's no one policy or approach that is going to solve the problem. It's really going to require, uh, an attack on, on every front, whether it's the way our utility sector uses fossil fuels to, to produce energy or the transportation sector, the building sector, or practices in, in agriculture and deforestation. There's never been a, a public policy problem that required so many different policy tacks and will really require the whole of government and that, that's sort of the new challenge is building a consensus between the Congress and the executive branch that this has to be tackled across the board and, and with greater and greater urgency.

Emy diGrappa: There's a couple of things that keep coming back to me and, one, how does global warming affect national security, that's one, and-

Lukas Haynes: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: ... how is it affecting these big migrations that are happening across the globe, uh, with people moving from their homes? I just thought that that was more about, you know, people seeking refuge, but not they're-

Lukas Haynes: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: ... leaving their home because of global warming and climate change.

Lukas Haynes: Well, there are lots of reasons for, for why people are on the move, but it, it has been well documented and studied now that in places like not just Darfur and Sudan, but also Syria, part of the driver of one element of instability is the inability of people to, to make a living in traditional ways based on predictable weather patterns, and then with a decline in agriculture, a growth in, a spike in the price of, of basic commodities, and, and those factors have driven instability and then, ultimately, conflict in those regions. Uh, Yemen is another example that it's, it's really running out of water, which you can imagine is a tremendous source of insecurity for people. You don't have to rely on me. I, I really recommend the Center for Climate Insecurity, which has a vast ... it's a, it's a nonpartisan policy research institute with a vast online archive of articles and studies.

Lukas Haynes: And, you know, p-, simply put, as far as the national security case, there are a lot of different aspects of it, but the most basic is the way extreme weather, whether it's hurricanes or droughts or heat waves, impacts military bases and the ability of, of servicemen and women to get to work and then the vulnerability of, of military assets to, to extreme storms. I'll give you, you know, just three examples in the last year. Air Force Base Tyndall in Florida, Air Force Base Offutt in Nebraska, and, uh, and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, all three of them experienced extreme weather, devastating extreme weather events, which created eight billion dollars worth of damage by the Pentagon's estimate and that's real money, even to the Pentagon's big budget.

Lukas Haynes: So Congress has required the Pentagon to actually report on the most vulnerable base installations around the country and they're beginning to do that on a regular basis. I think the last report was in January. Again, don't take my word for it, but go right to the, the House Armed Services Committee or to the Pentagon website itself and, and look up climate change and, and impacts.

Emy diGrappa: Well, I did think it was really interesting when I did go on the website for the Center for Climate and Securities Advisory Board and just saw, on your advisory board, how many generals and military personnel there are.

Lukas Haynes: Yeah. It's, it's one of the best kept secrets in, in Washington and in the country and, and our grant-making and the work of the center is trying to change that, the fact that, for such a long time, the Secretary of the Defense from both parties, from, you know, different political administrations, and then this vast array of, of generals and admirals who it's well known are, are, uh, aggressively nonpartisan and apolitical, they, you know, they simply have to deal with the physical impacts of climate change and extreme weather and this is about, you know, keeping the country safe and having functioning installations and the readiness and training of our servicemen and women.

Lukas Haynes: Increasingly, they're having to respond to events overseas and they don't, they don't want to have to respond to a world that is destabilized by climate change or, um, by new competition in a melting Arctic with these other naval powers. These, these are ... you know, the U.S. military has global, a global footprint and a global mandate to, to protect, you know, vital interests of the United States and this just greatly adds to that, to that mandate and that burden. So I, I think, you know, the Pentagon would be very, very, uh, pleased to see Congress come to political agreement on a comprehensive climate policy.

Emy diGrappa: The other thing that, that is very, I guess, needed or kind of want to hear your thoughts about, at a grassroots level, how can you get people involved in talking about it? Because it's a lot to understand and it's hard to understand because there are so many different views on it and so much research and scientific studies and, you know, but for just the everyday person who is going to make a vote, for example-

Lukas Haynes: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: ... how are you reaching those people?

Lukas Haynes: Well, there are a lot of funders who, who do actually focus on public education and even the education of, of youth in, in schools and in community conversations. I mean, one, one suggestion I would make, partly because it's very recent, is there is a, a National Climate Assessment published by the U.S. government in November 2018, and it includes, you know, summaries, and I think it's, it's a really great starting point for a conversation between, you know, within families and, and within classrooms. And, and when you come to understand, you know, just how solid the science is and the assessment of what climate is, is doing to the United States, there's really an on-ramp for almost any community in any part of the country. And then, you know, the next step from there is, is asking, you know, your local representatives, your state representatives, your U.S., you know, federal representatives, what, what is their position and how much of a priority do they make the issue and how urgently, you know, are they trying to see, um, some, some bipartisan agreement come to pass?

Lukas Haynes: But you're right, it is, it is intimidating as a topic, and the, the really good news is that younger people, you know, tend to get it. They've been, they've been thinking about it, studying it, longer than and, and more, more seriously than, than most of our generation and it, it doesn't take much convincing of, of younger voters, uh, that this is an issue. It's, it's actually rising up the ranks of issue priorities for voters very quickly.

Lukas Haynes: And the other, I think the other thing that's very encouraging is the solutions are an economic opportunity. Uh, the, the wind, uh, energy industry, the solar industry, these have been growing very quickly. The cost of wind and solar energy is dropping very steeply. And so just as we have to transition off of fossil fuels and re-power the economy, um, that is a tremendous driver of innovation and job creation in every part of the country, not just, you know, the coast, but, but, but the wind resources in places like Texas and Wyoming, so.

Emy diGrappa: Just because it sounds so doomsday, what are the positive things that we can do personally and think about, I guess, about the progress that you're making in D.C.?

Lukas Haynes: Well, I, I think the flip side of an enormous, you know, national challenge is how it can bring communities together and across our, our divided politics. There has really never been a challenge so great, in, in my, in my thinking, and I've been part of the U.S. foreign policy, uh, community in one way or another for, for a long time. And, and if we're going to rise to this challenge, it's going, it's going to be because we have come to new agreement across our divided politics and, and see that the future can be brighter than, than this recent, you know, very turbulent, divided political present, and we will see younger people, you know, coming together around new solutions and new economic opportunities.

Lukas Haynes: And, um, and if we can solve this problem, it will, it will represent, you know, one of the, the great accomplishments of this generation, just as, you know, the Greatest Generation overcame the challenges of World War II and, uh, and the civil rights generation, you know, took the country into a new chapter there. I really think climate change is the moral issue and moral challenge of our time. And there are plenty of, of motivated younger people out there who, who are leading the way if, if we, you know, begin to recognize their, their leadership and the power of their ideas.

Emy diGrappa: Wow. I think that's exciting and I am really happy to end on that note 'cause that's really positive and I look forward to learning more about this subject. Thank you so much, Lukas.

Lukas Haynes: Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Emy diGrappa: Thank you for joining us for this episode of What's Your Why?, a production of Think Why, Wyoming Humanities. This has been executive producer Emy diGrappa. Please subscribe and never miss a show. For more information, go to