Clean Air Task Force: Recommendation

This report was last updated in November 2022.



Giving Green classifies Clean Air Task Force (CATF) as one of our top recommendations to reduce climate change. CATF is a nonprofit that advocates for public policies that (1) invest in climate-protecting technologies (e.g., low-emission energy sources), (2) curb fossil fuel emissions, or (3) enact pollution regulations. Although it continues to lead on US policy advocacy, it has also scaled its work on technology innovation and commercialization to a global level.


We recommend Clean Air Task Force (CATF) because of its strong track record of policy accomplishments at the national level (including policies with bipartisan support), its growing international model, its focus on relatively neglected issue areas, the strength of its staff, and its ability to productively absorb additional funds in coming years. We previously recommended CATF in 2021 and 2020. [1] For more information, see our deep dive research report and a summary below.


  • What is Clean Air Task Force? CATF is a global nonprofit organization that advocates for technologies and policy changes that could drive down emissions and meet rising energy demand. It was founded in 1996.

  • What does Clean Air Task Force do? CATF uses insider policy advocacy tactics to increase federal support for technology innovation. For example, CATF advocates for nascent technologies such as superhot rock energy, advanced nuclear energy, and zero-carbon fuels. It has scaled its work on technology innovation to include global implementation and commercialization. Other policy areas CATF supports include reducing emissions of high-warming super pollutants and regulating emissions from US power plants.

  • How could Clean Air Task Force reduce greenhouse gases? Policies supporting climate-protecting technologies could accelerate emissions reductions by enabling widespread deployment. These policies may also have international spillover effects if other countries use these policy accomplishments as models for their own policies, or simply adopt the technologies or deployment models developed in the US. CATF’s work on curbing methane emissions and regulating power plant emissions could reduce emissions at their source.

  • What is Clean Air Task Force’s cost-effectiveness? In 2018, Founders Pledge conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) of CATF’s past work and its potential future impact. Overall, we estimate CATF could plausibly be within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider for a top recommendation. [2]

  • Is there room for more funding? Given CATF’s fundraising success, there is a fair chance that CATF could successfully achieve its future fundraising goals without money directed by Giving Green. However, we think CATF could continue to absorb more funding as it expands to new geographies and implements its policy priorities. We have some uncertainty around this, because CATF’s international work is relatively new.

  • Are there major co-benefits or adverse effects? CATF’s co-benefits and adverse effects are primarily linked to the technologies it promotes. As an example, you can read more about the co-benefits and adverse effects of nuclear power in our deep dive report on nuclear power.

  • Key uncertainties and open questions: Key uncertainties include CATF’s room for more funding, whether it can repeat its prior success in new geographies, and its partial focus on short-lived climate pollutants. Short-lived climate pollutants can be extremely potent in the short-term, but we are less certain about how to measure and compare their longer-term effects to those of CO2. [3] As an initial attempt to explore part of this uncertainty, we wrote a preliminary short-lived climate pollutants report in April 2022, which we think is fairly simplistic and does not take into account some new evidence. [4] We plan to assess this further in 2023.

  • Bottom line / next steps: We classify CATF as one of our top recommendations to reduce climate change. We believe donations to CATF are within the range of the most cost-effective giving opportunities we have identified, and could additionally increase its organizational growth trajectory. We plan to continue to assess our key uncertainties, and believe that we will be able to substantially improve our understanding of the severity and importance of these uncertainties as CATF executes its strategies in 2023.


Donate to Clean Air Task Force to support the scale-up of neglected but vital climate solutions.


Endnotes


Clean Air Task Force is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization in the United States. As Giving Green is part of IDinsight Inc., which is itself a charitable, tax-exempt organization, we are only offering an opinion on the charitable activities of Clean Air Task Force, and not on CATF Action. This is a non-partisan analysis (study or research) and is provided for educational purposes.


[1] We do not have an archived version of our 2020 report saved to the Wayback Machine.


[2] As a heuristic to guide our research prioritization, we consider something to plausibly be within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider for a top recommendation if its estimated cost-effectiveness is within an order of magnitude of $1/tCO2e (i.e., less than $10/tCO2e).


[3] “[Short-lived climate pollutants] persist for a short time in the atmosphere but can be extremely potent in terms of their global warming potential compared to long-lasting greenhouse gases such as CO2.” World Bank: Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, 2014.


[4] For example, it doesn’t take into account emerging evidence on “tipping elements” (e.g., McKay et al 2022) or how reducing short-term warming could “bend the curve” on longer-term warming (e.g., Carmichael et al 2013).https://www.givinggreen.earth/mitigation-research/nuclear-power