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Hi All, 

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. 





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You might be interested in reading some existing discussion of Drawdown, and its limitations, in the comments here.

Thanks - leaving aside the debate on whether nuclear power is unfairly underrated by Drawdown, I'd certainly agree with some of the criticisms. It's a great opening list of ideas, but it excludes unproven solutions which rules out obviously essential solutions like carbon capture and storage. They do not give a cost effectiveness ranking to the solutions and tractability doesn't seem to be a major consideration (from listening to the podcast they have clearly considered this, but not in the depth that EA folk would probably like). Really it's these criticisms that I'd like to start an EA project to address.  I view their work as very helpful starting place, and given the scale of the task of evaluating hundreds of different solutions in depth I have plenty of respect for what they've done.  

Hi Stephen, just to add a bit to what my colleague Kim has said, we at Giving Green are working on something very similar to this. We aren't explicitly starting with the Drawdown list of solutions, but have attempted to create a comprehensive list of areas for philanthropic engagement within climate space, and the drawdown list was one source of ideas. We've gone through a first cut to try to determine which are potentially most cost-effective, and are writing reports on some of the ones we think ex-ante have promise (such as the examples Kim wrote below). If you are considering doing a project such as you discuss, we'd welcome you to coordinate with us. We don't have the resources to dig deep into every solution, so more hands are always welcome. But it would be a shame if we are overlapping work! Please feel free to be in touch at givinggreen@idinsight.org. 

Hey Stephen, in case you're interested, my team at Giving Green has done some work that overlaps with your proposal. We've done reports analyzing different sectors and figuring out what solutions are most important, tractable, and neglected within them. So far we've completed reports that have looked at solutions within cutting short-lived climate pollutants, restoring and conserving wetlands, and the food sector. I'm currently researching forestry-related interventions and hope to release that report in the coming months.

Note that these reports do not have cost-effectiveness analyses yet. We plan on looking at the most promising solutions in greater depth.

Thanks Kim - I had a read, a very interesting high level summary on these topics.

You might want to share this project idea in the Effective Environmentalism Slack, if you haven't already done so.

Hello everybody,

I'd like to offer a somewhat different perspective.  After working on climate as an open source developer for a couple of years, I've found that a common problem is that we're trying to get someone else doing something, without appreciating how difficult it would be for them.  

So a very simple proposition from my background as an open source developer is simply to start with a solution that you directly can work on.  For example, I don't know anything about farming, but I do live in a building.  Drawdown has listed smart thermostats and building automations sytems as solutions.  Do they work?  Is everybody using them?  Can I get more people to use them?

There's a lot more you can do with this kind of thinking.  If you're interested, I'm starting a Decarbonization DAO open source project for it.

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