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Book recommendation -- The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success by Mark Jaccard

Yep - that's a key argument and I think he is right. Offsetting is likely harmful in my view.

Book recommendation -- The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success by Mark Jaccard

One important thing he argues for is the political economy barriers to carbon pricing. Jaccard himself worked to set up carbon pricing in Canada, but is very sceptical that it is the best thing to advocate for given political economy constraints. I think EAs sometimes miss this point and advocate for carbon pricing as the first best solution. Unfortunately, we are in the nth best world .


How large can the solar system's economy get?

It is clear that energy consumption cannot continue to grow exponentially for much more than 1000 years. But it might be argued that we can continue to extract ever more economic value from less and less energy, especially with VR. This is discussed in the debate between Robin Hanson and Bryan Caplan, and Toby Ord in the comments. 

See the comment here by Max Daniel:

"there are limits in how much value (whether in an economic or moral sense) we can produce per unit of available energy, and (ii) we will eventually only be able to expand the total amount of available energy subexponentially (there can only be so much stuff in a given volume of space, and the amount of available space is proportional to the speed of light cubed - polynomial rather than exponential growth).



In 275, 345, and 400 years, [assuming current growth rates of global power demand] we demand all the sunlight hitting land and then the earth as a whole, assuming 20%, 100%, and 100% conversion efficiencies, respectively. In 1350 years, we use as much power as the sun generates. In 2450 years, we use as much as all hundred-billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

(Tom Murphy)


Issues with Using Willingness-to-Pay as a Primary Tool for Welfare Analysis

I agree that this is a problem and had previously raised the question in a post on the Forum, (though it is my lowest scoring post ever so evidently lots of people disagree with my argument!) 

This issue became especially clear in early attempts by economists to put a value on the life of people across countries. Since people in poor countries took on greater risk for less money, their lives were valued at a fraction of those in rich countries. 

Another example is tickets. Suppose that we are selling tickets to the final of Euro 2020 and that Warren Buffet buys all the tickets for the game because he likes to watch games in empty stadia. Economists often say that because willingness to pay tracks utility across persons and the tickets went to the highest bigger, this outcome enhances social welfare compared to a world in which the ticket prices were kept artificially low. But obviously the fact that Buffet is willing to pay so much for the tickets is more a reflection of his massive wealth and peculiar tastes and not the fact that his welfare would actually be enhanced more than everyone else. 

Economists then try to solve this by having independent fairness or equity constraints. But the market outcome is bad on utilitarian grounds. 

Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

Victor and Cullenward - Making Climate Policy Work  is good.

On the science side, for an overview, I would recommend just reading the summary for policymakers or technical summary of the IPCC 2013 Physical science basis report. 

For long-termist/ex-risk takes the following are good

King et al Climate Change a Risk Assessment

Hansen et al, Climate Sensitivity, sea level and atmospheric CO2

Clark et al, Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change

Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead


I agree that climate change is not neglected but I view that as a bit of a weak steer when deciding whether to work on it, for reasons I outline here. Neglectedness is one determinant of how cost-effective it is to work on a problem, but there are many others. Taking the example of AI safety - it is more neglected than climate change, but I have almost no idea how to make progress on this problem, whereas with climate change there is quite a clear path to making a difference. It also might be true that certain solutions within climate are less neglected than others, e.g. CCS and nuclear are neglected. 

I think to make cause prioritisation decisions when the stakes are high, we actually need to sit down and figure out directly which cause is more cost-effective to work on. 

Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’

Hi Aaron, I appreciate this and understand the thought process behind the decision. I do generally agree that it is important to provide evidence for this kind of thing, but there were reasons not to do so in this case, which made it a bit unusual.

Insomnia with an EA lens: Bigger than malaria?

I have written up the instructions for CBT-i here for those interested - https://johnhalstead.org/index.php/2020/10/11/how-to-cure-your-insomnia/

Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’

Simon Beard is providing the foreword for his forthcoming book, and Luke Kemp has provided a supporting quote for it.

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