Podcast: Questions for John Halstead

I'm podcasting with John soon hoping to cover his climate work, long-termism and general worldview. If you haven't read it, his work on climate change & longtermism is, IMO, very impressive: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/BvNxD66sLeAT8u9Lv/climate-change-and-longtermism-new-book-length-report

What questions should I ask?

The podcast is generalist as opposed to EA-specific but has covered some EA topics in depth (both arguments for and against, eg Leopold Aschenbrenner, Larry Temkin).

Let me know any good questions. Thanks!

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11 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:22 AM

You could ask him about the most concerning tipping points. He wrote: "some models suggest that if CO2 concentrations pass 1,200ppm (compared to 415ppm today), cloud feedbacks could cause 8ºC of additional warming over the course of years to decades, on top of the 5ºC we would already have experienced." Carbon Brief covered this topic: https://www.carbonbrief.org/extreme-co2-levels-could-trigger-clouds-tipping-point-and-8c-of-global-warming/ 

Thanks. Tipping points is a good question.

I asked climate Scientist, Zeke Hausfather - who Halstead cites in his work - on this too: 

https://www.thendobetter.com/investing/2021/11/22/zeke-hausfather-state-of-climate-science-energy-systems-post-cop26-tipping-points-tail-risks-podcast

If you are interested.

I read through all the comments in this post:

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/nBN6NENeudd2uJBCQ

including Halstead's. And I found the counterarguments to Halstead's to be more persuasive. If I have time I can go back and highlight the specific ones, but I'd be interested in his response to the the responses to his comment.

In case anyone else is curious, the podcast is Ben Yeoh Chats

Does John feel like he learned generalizable lessons/heuristics/updates from studying climate change that ports over to studying other GCRs like unaligned AI or novel pandemics? E.g. does he trust mainstream academics vs EA researchers more/less, does he doubt doomers more, etc?

will try and bring this to the conversation,thanks for the thoughts. 

I'm curious to know what open questions he has after all the research he's done. What research still needs to be done? What are the biggest areas of uncertainty that he sees in this space?

Great question, will try and weave it into the conversation.

(Might be a bit of a digression, but:)

My understanding is that because climate change is usually talked about in terms of global average temperature changes, a change of 1ºC does not usually mean you'll feel a 1ºC change. Both because of a) the boring reason that average change hides a lot of variance, and b) because these differences are a true global average, rather than population-density weighted. (so for example, it might well be the case that the places with more humans, will experience on average larger temperature increases).

So how much temperature change does 1ºC global average change feel, anthropically? Both in terms of average temperature increases and peak temperature increases. And if 1ºC global average change feels like X.YºC, do we expect this to scale roughly linearly with temperature increases within the usual range?  

I mention this because I suspect I and others intuitively underestimate climate impact because we think 2 degrees doesn't "feel" like a lot.

he does mention this in the report, there's more tail risk at higher temps, and averages can be problematic,  and will see if this comes up. Thanks