$4 million gift launches new climate and carbon management initiative

April 16, 2024, Kathryn Royster

The USC Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability, part of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has received a $4 million commitment from Ballmer Group to launch a new initiative focused on climate and carbon management.

“This generous gift will enable innovative research to accelerate decarbonization strategies,” says Dornsife College Dean Amber D. Miller. “Our Wrigley Institute is in an ideal position to fill important gaps in our collective efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change—from implementing new scientific and technological breakthroughs to drawing on economic, political, and behavioral expertise from the most creative minds in the business.”

Established in 2015 by philanthropist Connie Ballmer and her husband, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Ballmer Group focuses on improving economic mobility and opportunity for children and families in the United States. The organization’s climate portfolio sits alongside that focus to address the ways in which climate change creates challenges for families and undermines gains in economic mobility. To date, Ballmer Group’s climate grantmaking has included the clean energy transition, implementation of the IRA, ending tropical deforestation, and climate-smart agriculture.

Special Advisor, Climate, Sam Ballmer ‘14 earned his B.S. in cognitive science from USC and led the entry into climate funding on behalf of the Ballmer family.

“We are committed to fighting climate change by finding areas for philanthropy to take smart risks and have leveraged impact,” says Ballmer. “I’m excited about the Wrigley Institute’s climate and carbon management initiative for a few reasons. First, I’ve seen USC deliver top-notch experiences and programs. The team has a great vision. Second, the program is focused on creating real change in business and government, beyond the realm of academia. This is the program I wish I had access to during my undergrad, so I’m excited that more students will be able to join the transition.”

The gift will support the establishment of an interdisciplinary initiative at the Wrigley Institute that encompasses solutions-oriented research, high-impact experiential learning, and public engagement. This will include new research by USC’s exceptional faculty researchers, postdoctoral and research fellowships to lead full-time projects that connect with institute research and activities; Faculty Innovation Award grants to seed related research across USC; internships, seminars, and other educational opportunities to equip USC undergraduates for leadership in climate and carbon management; and annual events to engage the public on topics related to climate resilience, sustainability, and the social and economic dimensions of carbon and climate solutions.

Based in coastal California at one of the world’s leading research universities, the Wrigley Institute is ideally positioned to study technological advancements such as the direct removal of carbon dioxide from the air, natural and engineered solutions that leverage the power of the world’s oceans, the social and economic costs of carbon, social and policy frameworks to encourage change, and the unintended consequences of potential climate solutions.

“We always knew the problems posed by climate change–the disruption to ecosystems and economies, the threat to food and water security, the exacerbation of social inequalities, and more–wouldn’t be solved overnight. But we have to be honest and say that the pace at which society has been moving on decarbonization is simply too slow,” says Wrigley Institute Director Joe Árvai, who is also the Dana and David Dornsife Professor of Psychology and a professor of biological sciences and environmental studies. “Now more than ever, we need all hands on deck to address the biggest environmental and social challenge humanity has ever faced. And thanks to support from the Ballmer Group, the Wrigley Institute’s talented scientists and innovators have a chance to play an ever larger role in creating a sustainable future for many generations to come.”

As of May 15, 2024, the Wrigley Institute is actively hiring postdoctoral researchers under the Climate and Carbon Management Initiative. Please see our job posting for full details and to apply.