[Note - it was suggested I post this here after posting this in Quick Takes]

In July 2022, Jeff Masters wrote an article (https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2022/07/the-future-of-global-catastrophic-risk-events-from-climate-change/) summarizing findings from a United Nations report on the increasing risks of global catastrophic risk (GCR) events due to climate change. The report defines GCRs as catastrophes that kill over 10 million people or cause over $10 trillion in damage. It warned that by increasingly pushing beyond safe planetary boundaries, human activity is boosting the odds of climate-related GCRs.

The article argued that societies are more vulnerable to sudden collapse when multiple environmental shocks occur, and that the combination of climate change impacts poses a serious risk of total societal collapse if we continue business as usual.

Although the article and report are from mid-2022, the scientific community has been messaging that climate change effects are increasing faster than models predicted. So I'm curious - what has the EA community been doing over the past year to understand, prepare for and mitigate these climate-related GCRs? Some questions I have:

  • What new work has been done in EA on these risks since mid-2022, and what are the key open problems?
  • How much intellectual priority and resources is the EA community putting towards climate GCRs compared to other GCRs? Has this changed in the past year, and is it enough given the magnitude of the risks? I see this as different than investing in interventions that address GHGs and warming. 
  • How can we ensure these risks are getting adequate attention?

I'm very interested to hear others' thoughts. While a lot of great climate-related work is happening in EA, I worry that climate GCRs remain relatively neglected compared to other GCRs. 




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My sense is that it is not a big priority.

However, I would also caution against the view that expected climate risk has increased over the past years.

Even if impacts are faster than predicted, most GCR-climate risk does probably not come from developments in the 2020s, but on emissions paths over this century.

And the big story there is that the expected cumulative emissions have much decreased (see e.g. here).

As far as I know no one has done the math on this, but I would expect that the decrease in likelihood of high warming futures dominates somewhat higher-than-anticipated warming at lower level of emissions.

Animal welfare is an area where climate concerns and a canonical EA cause converge because factory farming is a major contributor to both problems. By that light, EAs are actually doing quite a lot to mitigate climate change, just under a different banner. 

At least often. I don't know if would be safe to assume that there will ~always be convergence -- for instance, switching to higher-welfare breeds that grow less efficiently and less rapidly might plausibly not be net positive from a climate perspective. Cultured meat might not be if its production were extremely energy intensive.

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