The Republican Metals Magnate Fighting Climate Change Through the Courts

Go ahead and read that a second time if you want. Andrew Sabin is a Republican donor, owner of a precious metals refiner, and he just gave $3.5 million to support legal strategies to fight climate change. 

Sabin’s grant to Columbia Law School will expand upon the school’s Center for Climate Change Law, which he first helped launch with a $1.5 million gift in 2009, to develop legal techniques to fight developers over environmental issues and otherwise combat climate change. The Center is headed by Michael B. Gerrard, who once served as the family business Sabin Metal Corp.’s environmental attorney. 

If you’re skeptical of a climate change grant from a guy who also cuts six-figure checks to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC, open your mind, brother. He told the Wall Street Journal that he’s trying to educate his party about the importance of the environment and climate change, saying that “at the end of the day, there's no question that science proves there's climate change." 

His Sabin Family Foundation has also given to Conservation International, Earthjustice (another legal environmental group), The Nature Conservancy and Oceana. The guy’s a conservationist, don’t pigeonhole him. 

But given that the family’s foundation gave $2.9 million total in 2013, the gift to Columbia is by far his biggest environmental grant. And it takes a pretty interesting approach to fighting climate change by doing legal research and training attorneys how to fight polluters within the bounds of existing law. 

“Congress has not enacted a major new environmental law since 1990 and that is not likely to change any time soon,” Gerrard said in a statement about the gift. “Thus our mission is especially vital—developing new legal tools within the existing statutory framework to tackle this extraordinarily important problem.”

Since its founding, the center has worked closely with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and has released a report rating states’ climate change preparedness, offering legal tools for cities to stop development in areas that might be threatened by rising shorelines.

It also works to help control greenhouse gas emissions and pay particular attention to how well regulations are being followed, where the press and public might not follow.