All of DannyBressler's Comments + Replies

Cost Effectiveness of Climate Change Interventions

No worries! I'm glad you found the paper useful and interesting!

The mortality cost of carbon is just the number of excess deaths from temperature-related mortality in units of excess deaths from emitting one metric ton of CO_2. So it's just excess deaths and nothing else. The social cost of carbon is the full monetized value of all climate impacts from emitting one ton of CO_2, which includes the monetized value of those excess deaths in addition to other sources of climate damages. You can see that before the model accounted for temperature-related mortal... (read more)

1andrew_richardson3mo
Thank you for your responses! I added edits to the essay to reflect this. Overall, as I noted in the edits, this exercise has made me shift from being skeptical about all climate change interventions to considering shifting some donations from global poverty to climate change interventions. Not entirely convinced, but it seems a lot more plausibly effective than I first suspected. Some things I don't understand though: It makes sense that with a convex harms curve, marginal harms will be worse than this back of the envelope linear calculation suggests. But it's surprising that they're 10 times higher. I guess it's just very nonlinear, as you say, but that's surprising to me. The $1/ton estimate comes from CATF, which is a lobbying organization. Their cost effectiveness calculations [https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1q6srpmt5VkdXLGfYzqHqkU3hvGUwPKjA67uxqYI0Upw/edit#gid=200949301] account for money they spend lobbying, but not deadweight loss caused by taxes and regulations. How reasonable is it accept that sort of accounting?
Cost Effectiveness of Climate Change Interventions

Thank you for this post on a very important topic! And thank you for the kind words on my Mortality Cost of Carbon paper. 

I think that, at least from the perspective of using my paper, the analysis is actually much simpler than what you do above.  Instead of using the 83 million cumulative 2020-2100 excess deaths, use the mortality cost of carbon itself: i.e. the number of lives saved per ton of carbon dioxide reduced, which is provided by the paper. So instead of the equation you show above, the equation now becomes:

Marginal Cost Per Life Saved ... (read more)

1andrew_richardson3mo
Thank you for commenting! I felt like I was relying on your paper without fully understanding it. I'm afraid that much of my post is just an attempt to reinterpret your work. It's encouraging that Founder's Pledge thinks they can get such a low price on carbon! Interventions at that price really might be effective. One major question I had about your paper is; what's the breakdown of harms between direct deaths, economic harms, and other losses (like non-fatal hunger)? When the WHO estimates 250,000 deaths each year from 2030-2050, should I interpret a multiplier on that to account for other harms like productivity lost from sickness? I knew I was making a bad linearity assumption, but I think I might have underestimated how much error it was introducing. If I use my naive model to match your work, I get 50,000 tons/death, which is an order of magnitude off from your estimate. Is that because of an improper linearity assumption? (50,000 tons/life) = (2 Tt/°C) * (2.5°C/AGW) / (100 million lives / AGW) When I have time later, I'll edit the post to include some of your feedback.
The NPT: Learning from a Longtermist Success [Links!]

Yes, I think it is. There is a literature on whether nuclear assistance  and technology sharing for peaceful uses tends to promote or hinder nuclear proliferation, that I mention and cite a bit in my second CSIS piece.

The NPT: Learning from a Longtermist Success [Links!]
  1.  One piece of info related to the NPT that might be helpful: The NPT does contain an article (article VI) in which the the P5  (the 5 current permanent members of the UN Security Council, who at the time the NPT was made were the only countries who had successfully tested nuclear weapons) as well as all of the parties agree to participate in good-faith negotiations to pursue nuclear disarmament, but it does not specify a time-table and the language is deliberately vague. I think the NPT has done a good job of doing what its main goal is and what
... (read more)
5MichaelA1y
Thanks for this response! I'll be quite interested to learn more about Jeffrey's project once it's further along. I might reach out to you or Jeffrey in a few weeks about that. Regarding the forecasts, we can have any time range and any topic. I already have a bunch of ideas, but just wanted to see if anything bubbled to mind for you independently which I could add to my list. (It's ok if not!) I guess this might depend what you mean by "particularly reliable". My understanding is that there's basically just no good evidence either way regarding how accurate and calibrated forecasts are over long time-scales (at least if we restrict ourselves to relevant kinds of forecasts, e.g. ones made by people who seem to have been genuinely trying rather than just making claims for rhetorical/political effect). But there's a little evidence (from Tetlock) to suggest that accuracy may decline relatively slowly after the first year or so. See in particular the great post How Feasible Is Long-range Forecasting? [https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/how-feasible-long-range-forecasting], footnote 17 there, and posts tagged long-range forecasting [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/long-range-forecasting]. Here's the summary of that post:
The NPT: Learning from a Longtermist Success [Links!]

One other reason why I think that understanding the NPT is important for longtermists: As the world decarbonizes to address climate change (my other big area of research), nuclear electricity generation may increase substantially into more countries, and in particular to countries with lower levels of development/technology. It's crucial to know if the existing nonproliferation regime can ensure that this doesn't cause proliferation, and what sorts of investments must be made to ensure that nonproliferation regime continues to work.

8simonfriederich1y
Great post -- and I fully agree that understanding the success of the NPT is hugley interesting and promising, and I also agree with this comment on the importance of this question regarding nuclear energy deployment! There seems to be one line of thinking according to which almost any facilitating of a country's starting a civilian nuclear energy programme increases proliferation risk and another line of thinking according to getting ahead of the curve in exporting comparatively proliferation-resistant technology might actually reduce proliferation risks in the longer term. The idea behind the second view is nicely expressed by Rebecca David Gibbons in this passage: "The positive effects of nuclear assistance on nonproliferation suggest a second important policy lesson for the United States and its allies: attempt to regain and maintain a competitive nuclear industry. When US and allied technology is desirable, the nonproliferation regime benefits. Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, and several other states joined the NPT in part to receive nuclear technology from Western suppliers. Today, Egypt is purchasing its nuclear technology from Russia and China and has not agreed to the most stringent IAEA safeguards agreement, the Additional Protocol. If suppliers less concerned with nonproliferation have better technology or offer more favorable agreements than the United States and its allies, the nuclear nonproliferation regime could be weakened." (Gibbons 2020, p. 294) From: Gibbons, R. D. (2020), Supply to deny: The benefits of nuclear assistance for nuclear nonproliferation, Journal of Global Security Studies, 5:282-298. Could you outline whether you think this reasoning is compelling, Danny?
N-95 For All: A Covid-19 Policy Proposal

This is a really good point!

I think you're right that the magnitude of the benefit from the program depends heavily on how many people end up choosing to use the mask, especially in situations where they are more likely to contract the disease. Individuals will ultimately make a personal decision based on trade-offs between the probability of contracting the virus, comfort, convenience, and even fashion.

I also think there is significant heterogeneity in terms of how people weigh these factors. I do think that there are a significant number of people who, n... (read more)

3Denkenberger2y
Note that the shield claims to block droplets, but not aerosols. Aerosols will go around any shield. Even this [https://rapidresponseppe.com/product/humanity-shield/]shield with some loosefitting fabric only blocked ~10% of aerosols. Making it tight fitting with an elastic band improves it. But really what would be much safer is surgical mask material or N-95 material that is tightfitting. I do think that appearance is critical, at least in developed countries. In my experience, most people use only cloth masks, which block about 1/4 of aerosols. Moving to a surgical mask blocks about three quarters, which is an enormous improvement. There are concerns about long reuse of mass that are designed to be disposable, but they are doing UV treatment, and an easy thing is just putting it in an oven [https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2020/06/15/disinfect-mask-step-by-step-guide/] at about 80C for 45 minutes. A compromise could be a surgical mask underneath an attractive cloth mask, which is still easier to breath than N-95. Surgical masks seem to be easily available, and some are even attractive.
N-95 For All: A Covid-19 Policy Proposal

What I had in mind with this policy was that the government would contract directly with producers (using the defense production act where necessary) to procure enough N-95 respirators for everyone in the country, and the government would then distribute them to everyone. There would be some agreed upon price of procurement between the government and manufacturers that would be negotiated at the start of the process. If manufacturers want to produce more respirators than what they contracted for, they are welcome to do that and to sell it at a price they c... (read more)

2ofer2y
I agree that the issue I raised does not interfere with this proposed intervention (sorry for not making this clear). Re availability, googling for the term [buy n95 masks] gives some relevant pointers within the first 2 result pages. There are probably many counterfeit respirators out there and these sellers don't seem well-known, but one may still want to bet on them if the manufacturer's website offers a way to authenticate the validity of some unique ids on the respirators etc. (3M has something [https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/worker-health-safety-us/3m-safeguard/] like this). Note: I'm not recommending the above google search as a way to buy respirators; people may have better alternatives depending on where they live (e.g. in Israel one can buy n95 respirators from a well-known retailer [https://www.kravitz.co.il/10029375-%D7%9E%D7%A1%D7%9B%D7%94-%D7%A0%D7%A9%D7%9E%D7%99%D7%AA-8210-n95-160-ea-case-3m] ).
N-95 For All: A Covid-19 Policy Proposal

Thanks, John! I really like your distinction between the type (1) and type (2) "pernicious moral hazard."

Yes I agree that the moral hazard I mention here would not be large enough to outweigh the benefits of the policy, putting it in the category of (1). My goal in that "potential issues" section was to think about the universe of potential issues that people could raise about the policy and address them. As you can tell, I don't currently think any of the issues are significant enough to make the policy not worth it. 

Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups

By the title, I thought this was going to be a discussion of the dangers of appeasing genocidal dictators (e.g. https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3476200,00.html) ... clearly I was wrong!

(FWIW, I had a similar reaction. Like, it was quite clear to me what the actual topic of the post was going to be, but I was wondering whether the author was making a deliberate reference to highlight how bad they think the issue is. I was also wondering if the author was trying to sort of lead by example since comparisons to Nazi-related issues are very taboo in mainstream German discourse. Overall I figured that it's probably unintentional.)

Does using the mortality cost of carbon make reducing emissions comparable with health interventions?

FYI, I gave a presentation on my Mortality Cost of Carbon paper at the UCLA Climate Adaptation conference two days ago, available here: https://event.on24.com/wcc/r/2688287/118B1E2E57B33A902FDE6CE95202DB34 This is a brief (~20 minutes) less technical overview of the paper. My presentation starts at 53:20.

Also, the other two speakers on the panel (Tamma Carleton and Ishan Nath) were both authors on the Climate Impact Lab paper that Louis had posted about earlier: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/PATHShQoxQLHoZ7rE/linkpost-global-death-rate-from-ri... (read more)

[Linkpost] Global death rate from rising temperatures to exceed all infectious diseases combined in 2100

FYI, Michael Greenstone (one of the authors of this study, the co-director of the Climate Impact Lab, and the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at University of Chicago) testified at a hearing in Congress on the health impacts of climate change a few weeks ago: https://youtu.be/N8nCZC0_yxU His opening statement is available in written form here: http://www.impactlab.org/news-insights/michael-greenstone-testifies-on-the-health-impacts-of-climate-change/

[Linkpost] Global death rate from rising temperatures to exceed all infectious diseases combined in 2100

The copy you have is their 2019 version of the paper. The figure 9 I am referring to is their most recent 2020 NBER Working Paper version of the paper linked in the original post.

I agree that the RCPs, which were made in 2011, are outdated at this point. This is in large part because of the strong performance of renewable energy over the last decade. The RCPs at this point are still the standard emissions scenarios that are used in scientific papers, although I expect them to be updated in the near future when the next IPCC report comes out. Somewhere betw... (read more)

[Linkpost] Global death rate from rising temperatures to exceed all infectious diseases combined in 2100

1) This hasn't been through peer review yet, but it's a project they've been working on for years, and this is at least the third iteration (first two iterations: https://epic.uchicago.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Working-Paper-2.pdf https://bfi.uchicago.edu/wp-content/uploads/BFI_WP_201851.pdf). They've presented this paper at many academic conferences where they get criticism and feedback from other experts (including one I've been to). Unfortunately, publication timelines are very long in economics, so NBER working papers a... (read more)

6John G. Halstead2y
2) I don't think this refutes Johannes point, which is that the headline figures claimed in the write-up on impact lab seem selected to get eye-catching figures. Although they run RCP4.5, they report the effects of RCP8.5 on the website and in the abstract. The mean effect is about a sixth smaller on RCP 4.5. To put RCP8.5 in context, energy demand nearly quadruples, driven mainly by coal. I do worry that this sort of work underestimates our ability to adapt. If energy demand does quadruple, there would be a lot more air conditioning to go round, and burning of coal would have driven a lot of income growth 3) From the copy [https://gspp.berkeley.edu/assets/uploads/research/pdf/SSRN-id3224365.pdf]I see, I think you are reporting Figure 7a, not 9a?
[updated] Global development interventions are generally more effective than climate change interventions

Below is one important point that I think is extremely difficult to know without being an active researcher in the field. Hauke hints at it in his footnote 6, but I want to expand on it since I think it is important to understand where the social cost of carbon estimates are coming from:

Ricke et al. 2018 (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0282-y) are using a climate damage function that predicts much higher damages than the damage function that is used in the main integrated assessment models (IAMs) that predict the social cost of carbon (DICE, F... (read more)

3Hauke Hillebrandt3y
Thank you for this comment. Relevant quote from my updated analysis above: "The new paper’s social cost of carbon figure is controversial and has been criticized for being too high for various methodological reasons.[6] [https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vTU5mwUFtxKG0CGJN7ohkm8fMfkPVnykD8EILgQ5eSRkVMQvhss6Q__2G4dLl24_NapOh_POozctpKQ/pub#ftnt6] For instance, one very critical new paper also now estimates the social cost of carbon on a country-level, suggesting that the global social cost of carbon is only $24 (and, using various sensitivity analyses, values ranging from $3.38/tCO2e to $21,889/tCO2e).[7] [https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vTU5mwUFtxKG0CGJN7ohkm8fMfkPVnykD8EILgQ5eSRkVMQvhss6Q__2G4dLl24_NapOh_POozctpKQ/pub#ftnt7] To account for the new paper overestimating or underestimating the social cost of carbon, below, we use sensitivity analysis to show how our model responds to over- or underestimating the true social cost of carbon by 10x."
How Many People Will Climate Change Kill? [Video]

I answer these questions and go over the methodology in detail in the video. A working paper will be coming soon, but for now all of the details are in the video.

[Link] Vox Article on Engineered Pathogens/ Global Catastrophic Biorisks

I don't think there is much publicly available on this topic besides Koblentz's work (also check out his 2003 article in International Security). The "strategy of conflict" as it pertains to bioweapons is something we thought about, but we don't discuss it much in our paper. Some thoughts:

Historically bioweapons research has focused on diseases that are not transmissible person to person like Tularemia, Anthrax, Q Fever, and Botulism. If you dump a bunch of anthrax spores from an airplane over a city, you would kill a lot of people... (read more)