I’m fairly new to the EA forum, though I’ve been a believer and endorser of EA’s core concepts for quite a few years. Since joining the forum I’ve been doing a lot of reading (of EA posts and related sources) and an awful lot of thinking. I’ve been trying to think how I could use my spare time and ideally my career to make maximum positive impact, and I wanted the outcome of my thought process to be a clear, simple, ‘go and do’ project – rather than a high level idea/suggestion which I’d never have the time, resources or ability to do given I have a full time job and all the normal life commitments that people tend to have.
I decided to focus on climate change as I believe that any reductions in global temperatures will be highly impactful. There are hundreds of well researched 'solutions' to various aspects of climate change - and despite the media attention surrounding climate change, actual action being taken is still very minimal when one digs deeper, so this an area with many high impact, neglected solutions. Additionally public opinion and political will seems to have progressed in many countries - so I think many of the climate change solutions will be tractable.
The 'go and do' project that I’m suggesting is:
To build on the 100 climate solutions listed by project Drawdown (see https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions). These solutions show the top 100 different solutions that could (in theory) be implemented and scaled to the point where humanity is reducing rather than increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. It’s a great bit of research with a positive message, BUT from what I can tell many of the most highly effective ideas are completely neglected in many countries. I did a brief review of the United Kingdom’s Net Zero strategy vs the most cost-effective drawdown solutions (see https://medium.com/@tsloane/applying-effective-altruism-to-climate-change-e2d703f6414f) and found that the UK government’s strategy ignores almost all the low hanging agricultural emissions savings, instead focusing on exciting high cost projects like electric vehicles. My takeaway from this is that we have good research on the existing possible climate solutions available, minimal research on the relative cost effectiveness of these solutions and no research on the relative uptake on these solutions within different countries.
So to me this looks like a prime example of a problem where EA research could be hugely useful. I’d be happy to set up a google doc sheet listing the top 100 drawdown solutions. It would then be great to get people doing research on either 1) the cost effectiveness of the different solutions by country or 2) the existing levels of adoptions of these solutions by country and whether there is government/private support available for these solutions (and quantifying this).
I think this piece of research, if done in depth and continuously updated would be a hugely useful resource. However, I love to see action, so I’d hope that a natural progression from this project would be to see some of the best ideas implemented. But identifying a highly neglected and effective cause area is still a long way off providing a viable business plan to tackle said cause area. There are many reasons that might prevent a climate solution from gaining traction, such as lack of government support, lack of funding, the payoffs are too long term for the individuals who would be implementing the solutions (i.e. farmers adopting any of drawdowns agricultural solutions). The only way to devise an effective solution would be to research the most promising solutions in greater depth, leaving behind internet only research and moving onto conversations with experts, surveys and focus groups. At this point a viable business plan could be produced.
I like the idea of this project as it’s easy to set up and it can naturally be broken down into thousands of much smaller research chunks that an interested person could lay claim to (i.e. silvopasture adoption in the UK). If it had enough contributors, then the output could be hugely useful.
So, if you’d be interested in helping do research as part of this project then drop me a private message. If it seems like the EA community would get behind an open-source research project like this, then I’ll take the time to get things properly set up (e.g. research guidelines, review procedures, general project policies). I also welcome any questions, comments, and feedback on this idea.