- AUTHOR: NICK STOCKTON.
- As a hedge fund manager, Tom Steyer turned $15 million into $30 billion. Then he learned what humanity is doing to the planet.
- DATE OF PUBLICATION: 03.23.17.03.23.17
- TIME OF PUBLICATION: 6:00 AM.6:00 AM
Tom Steyer was the biggest campaign donor in 2016, spending $86 million on progressive causes. So what does he do after losing? Fight harder.
TOM STEYER ISN’T your average California tree hugger. The former hedge fund manager—number 1,121 on Forbes’wealthiest people list, with $1.61 billion—was once best known for turning $15 million into $30 billion in about two decades.
But then he went hiking. Steyer and environmental activist and author Bill McKibben spent a day trudging through the Adirondacks. Not long after, Steyer parted ways with the leadership of his company and his oil and gas investments, began to fight the Keystone XL pipeline, and then reinvented himself as a one-man superfund for climate causes. His organization, NextGen Climate, has spent $170 million over the past four years advocating for policies and politicians that help the environment and advance renewable energy.
It’s an uphill battle. Steyer was the largest single donor on either side of the 2016 election—$86 million of his own money. Yet climate change skeptics rule the federal government and many statehouses. Somehow, though, Steyer isn’t acting like a loser. Since November he’s become an even more vocal representative of the nearly two-thirds of Americans who do think human-caused climate change is a real problem. He talked to WIRED about California’s role in science, his own political ambitions (“governor” has a better ring to it than “former hedge fund manager,” right?), and whether Donald Trump could ever possibly, conceivably help save the planet.
WIRED: So Keystone XL has been revived, the Clean Power Plan is in peril, and the former CEO of Exxon is our secretary of state. How are you?
STEYER: I know there are five stages of grief, but my parents raised me to pull up my socks when times get tough. So I really never had the luxury of feeling bad, because right after the election I felt like we needed to figure this thing out.