All of jackva's Comments + Replies

Uncorrelated Bets: an easy to understand and very important decision theory consideration, which helps tease out nonobvious but productive criticism of the EA movement

What's the evidence that EA grantmakers are not thinking about this?

At Founders Pledge, we're thinking about this issue a lot in our climate work (indeed, we try to make negatively correlated bets in light of nonlinear climate damage) and I'd be very surprised if we were the only ones as generally thinking about uncertainty and its implications is one of the strengths of the EA movement.

2Uncorrelated Returns15h
The Founders Pledge climate fund's stated objective is to "sustainably reach net-zero emissions globally". A great example of an insidious correlation of this fund: what about funding work which helps people adapt to climate change, instead of mitigating it? For example, can we invent cheap air conditioning units which anyone in the world can afford to buy, to keep humans and crops cool as they migrate away from current coastal areas? EDIT: let me try to be more clear, since this answer was downvoted twice -- upon seeing the fund, I asked myself, "what belief seems to be shared by all of these investments"? That then lead me to the above thought. This is a much better intuition pump than "what should this fund be uncertain about"? I think that's the difference between uncertainty and insidious correlation, and I think you're interpreting insidious correlation as another name for uncertainty.
The most important climate change uncertainty

I think there's a difference between being source of most uncertainty and source of biggest disagreement.

As I understand cwa's "Claim 1" it really just says "the largest uncertainty in the badness of climate change is the level of damage not emissions or warming levels which are less uncertain".

This can be true even if one thinks the indirect existential risk of climate is very low.

Similarly, the core of cwa's second claim does not seem to be a particular statement about the size of the risk but rather that current knowledge does not constrain this very mu... (read more)

I'm claiming, per the other comment, that relative speed would be both the substantive largest uncertainty, and the largest source of disagreement. Despite Claim 1, if technology changes rapidly, the emissions and warming levels which are "less uncertain" could change drastically faster, which changes the question in important ways. And I think claim 2 is mistaken in its implication, in that even if the risk of existential catastrophe from AI and biorisk are not obviously several orders of magnitude higher - though I claim that they are - the probability of having radically transformative technology of one the the two types is much less arguably of the same order of magnitude, and that's the necessary crux.
The most important climate change uncertainty

Thanks for this very thoughtful and well-researched post!

Very much agree with "Claim 1", this also seems not only the most severe uncertainty and disagreements between EAs (e.g. John and I disagree on this even though we agree on the "Good News on Climate Change" directional update), but also generally expert as well as the published literature (the variation in damage functions is larger than climate sensitivity & emissions scenarios).

I also agree with a large part of "Claim 2", in particular that until now the estimates on indirect existential risk a... (read more)

As I explain in my comment, I really don't think that either claim is the source of most disagreements - the relative timing of AI, nano, and biotech versus climate impact are the real crux.
Great to hear, thanks! Appreciate the link to the discussion, and the points you make --- I definitely agree that there's no reason to think that the direct and indirect risks from climate change are anywhere near the same order of magnitude, and that this is one way an unjustified sense of confidence can creep in.
Disruptive climate protests in the UK didn’t lead to a loss of public support for climate policies

Thanks for this work and the nuanced write up.

I guess one way to make these findings potentially stronger / more informative would be to see whether effect size varies as one would expect with familiarity of Just Stop Oil (i.e. more change with more exposure)?

3James Ozden2mo
Thanks Johannes! We thought about doing this but ruled it out as there would be a pretty clear bias e.g. the people who are most likely to hear about Just Stop Oil are people who are climate-conscious already, and are therefore more susceptible to positive shifts. I think we did do this informally, and did find a positive correlation between knowledge of Just Stop Oil and the constructs, but I don't think it's particularly robust. Thinking out loud but maybe one way to control for this might be doing this within groups of people who answered the same to "How concerned are you about climate change" in the first survey, although this might make our sample sizes quite small / no longer representative.
Climate change - Problem profile

I think it's important to see the nuance of the disagreement here.

1. My critique  is of what strikes me as overconfident and overconfidently stated reasoning on what seems a critical point in the overall prioritization of climate -- as Haydn writes, few sophisticated people buy the "climate is a direct extinction risk", so while this is a good hook it is not where the steelmanned case for climate concern is and, whatever one assumes the exact amount of risk to be,  indirect existential risk plausibly is the majority of badness from climate from a... (read more)

I agree it is not where the action is but given that large sections of the public think we are going to die in the next few decades from climate change, it makes lots of sense to discuss it. And, the piece makes a novel contribution on that question, which is an update from previous EA wisdom. 

I took it that the claim in the discussed footnote is that working on climate is not the best way to tackled pandemics, which I think we agree is true. 

I agree that it is a risk factor in the sense that it is socially costly. But so are many things. Inadequ... (read more)

Climate change - Problem profile

Strongly agree with Haydn here on the critique. Indeed,  focusing primarily on direct risks and ignoring the indirect risks or,  worse, making a claim about the size of the indirect risks that has no basis in anything but stating it confidently really seems unfortunate, as it feels like a strawman.

Justification for low indirect risk from the article:
"That said, we still think this risk is relatively low. If climate change poses something like a 1 in 10,000 risk of extinction by itself, our guess is that its contribution to other existential risks... (read more)

I don't think the post ignores indirect risks. It says "For more, including the importance of indirect impacts of climate change, and our climate change career recommendations, see the full profile."

As I understand the argument from indirect risk, the claim is that climate change is a very large and important  stressor of great power war, nuclear war, biorisk and AI. Firstly, I have never seen anyone argue that the best way to reduce biorisk or AI is to work on climate change. 

Secondly, climate change is not an important determinant of Great Powe... (read more)

Focus of the IPCC Assessment Reports Has Shifted to Lower Temperatures

I strongly share John's intuition that this is primarily an artefact of talking about desired temperature targets in the IPPC report rather than a change in the foci of the research that the IPCC reports on.

Would it be possible to test this by denoting which share of the 0-2 degree mentions are surrounded by words like "Paris Agreement", "policy targets", "ideally", "well below" etc. (i.e. words that typically co-occur with the statement of the ambition of the Paris Agreement) . Or, alternatively, by focusing on the climate science & impact sections of the IPCC reports? 

Good idea. I'll look into this when I find the time and report back here.
Should we buy coal mines?

FWIW, your calculation seems still optimistic to me, still, e.g. assuming quite a high elasticity (cost of coal is not such an important part of the cost of producing electricity with coal) and, if I understand your reasoning correctly, a fairly high chance of additionality (by default, coal is in structural decline globally).

Makes sense; thanks for flagging. I'm tempted to conclude "robustly a bad idea".

Maybe the parameter that I can most imagine someone pushing on to make it look better is that I'm assuming 5% of mineable coal will stay in the ground on default trajectories, and you might think it would be significantly less than that. I don't think this would make it look better than generic clean energy R&D, but it's not impossible (my cost-effectiveness estimate is >1000x below where I'd put the threshold for interventions I'm excited about, so it seems pretty much impossible for it to reach that if my calc is currently skewing optimistic in places).

Should longtermists focus more on climate resilience?

Thanks for this!

FWIW, Founders Pledge's climate work is explicitly focused on supporting solutions that work in the worst worlds (minimizing expected climate damage) and we're thinking a lot about many of those issues both from a solution angle and a cause prioritization angle (I think the existential risk factors you allude to are by far the most important reasons to care about climate from a longtermist lens).

That being said, you are making a lot of very strong claims based on fairly limited evidence and it would require significantly more work to get cr... (read more)

1Richard Ren3mo
Hey Johannes! I really appreciate the feedback, and I love the work you guys are doing through Founder's Pledge. I appreciate that you also believe sociopolitical existential risk factors are an important element worth consideration. I wish there was a lot more quantitative evidence on sociopolitical climate risk — I had to lean to a lot of qualitative expert sociopolitical analyses for this forum post. I acknowledge a lot of the scenarios I talk about here lean on the pessimistic side. In scenarios where there is high(er) governmental competence and societal resilience (than I predicted), it could be that very few of these x-risk multiplying impacts manifest. It could also be that they manifest in ways I don’t predict initially in this forum post. I therefore agree with the critique about the overly confident statements. I ended up changing quite a bit of the phrasing in my forum post as a result of your feedback — I absolutely agree that some of the phrasing was a little too certain and bold. The focus should have been more on laying out possibilities rather than statements of what would happen. Thank you for that feedback. To address your criticism/feedback on IPCC climate reports: I think it is known that the IPCC’s climate reports, being consensus-driven, will not err in favor of extreme effects but rather include climate effects agreed upon by the broader research community. There was a recent Washington Post [] article I was considering including as well, where many notable climate scientists comment on the conservative, consensus nature of the IPCC and how this may impact their climate reports. I cited the Scientific American article [] initially because it showed evidence of how a conservative consensus-driven organization
Aviation-Oriented Environmental Organization Looking for Input

It's a btit hard to comment in detail given the research process is not very clear. 

One question, though: There's a fair amount of public and private money focused on funding research to decarbonize aviation fuels (including Breakthrough Energy), what is the rationale for thinking that small philanthropic donations to private companies can make a difference?

Cost Effectiveness of Climate Change Interventions

(Working at Founders Pledge)

1. To your question on accounting for deadweight losses etc., it is true that this is not included, rather this is an estimate of marginal changes from donations. But the factors not included in the calculation are not only deadweight losses (and other costs), but also lots of benefits, e.g.  economic benefits from technological leadership. This is parallel to GiveWell analyses which only focus on mortality/direct income gains and ignore a lot of other follow-on benefits and costs.

2. The air pollution benefits of clean ener... (read more)

Climate Recommendations in EA: Giving Green and Founders Pledge

Much has been already discussed, but I wanted to add some clarifications and additional arguments on some points.

  1. None of our grants was driven by the cost-effectiveness analysis that Matthew cites as justifying or being the basis of our grants.
  2. All money that FP and Giving Green direct to CATF are philanthropic dollars.
  3. Why philanthropic CCS support is valuable despite a powerful fossil lobby
  4. Learning curves of CCS

And, more generally, on uncertainty and the relative uncertainty of different interventions:

  1. Should we care about the degree of uncertainty?
  2. If we ca
... (read more)
EA Analysis of the German Coalition Agreement 2021–2025

On 1, agree that this is complicated because of electrification, but even in 2030 80% of electricity are unlikely to translate into more than, say, 40% of energy, given a lot of energy-intensive processes are not easily electrifiable (heavy-duty transport, industry etc.). In any case, these are good goals. But more technology-inclusive peer countries (France, UK)  are much more successful.

On 2, blue hydrogen (natural gas w CCS) is cheaper than green hydrogen for the next decade or so, so it is good if that is included.

I think the current coalition is better than some counterfactuals on climate (continued Grand Coalition, government led by the Greens), but overall still fairly disappointing.


EA Analysis of the German Coalition Agreement 2021–2025

"To address this, the new government plans to rapidly shift its energy production to renewables. As nuclear power will be fully phased out this year, the coalition intends to provide 80% of energy through wind, photovoltaics and hydrogen imports by 2030. For this, they will expand and facilitate wind turbine construction, mandate photovoltaic panels on new commercial buildings and subsidise hydrogen technology R&D. In general, the coalition is open to most technologies (other than nuclear), and they allow for negative emissions tech."

  1. Is it 80% of
... (read more)
Hi, I contributed to that part, let me respond to both of your points: 1. You are right, the plan is to get 80% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. But it's complicated: At the same time, they expect to see an increase in electricity demand from 488 Twh in 2020 to 680-750 TWh per year, as more sectors are electrifying. Separately, they state the target to generate 50% of energy for heating from climate neutral sources by 2030. The goal is to also electrify transport. I can't quickly give you an overall target percentage, that would require further research. The exact goals for 2030 and 2045 will be put into law this year. 2. Yes, they do plan to build up infrastructure for green hydrogen, but explicitly state they will remain technology-neutral for now, in order to quickly mature the hydrogen market. Personally, I think it's impossible to stay truly technology-neutral if you want to move that quickly. We can only build things that we know work today. And I think it makes sense to focus CCS efforts on sectors where there is no green alternative available yet, especially now while CCS is unreasonably expensive.
Climate Recommendations in EA: Giving Green and Founders Pledge

Agree with Dan here. 

In addition: Coal might be dying in the US, but not yet globally (or at least not fast enough)  and CCS is also useful for gas w/CCS, blue hydrogen, and carbon removal, all of which could be/are definitely important so  there are plenty of reasons to be excited about 45Q even at the risk of marginal emissions increases in some edge cases.

I don't know how to contextualize your statement that 45Q is worth supporting "even at risk of marginal emissions increases in some edge cases" given your own report. CATF's report "Carbon Capture & Storage in The United States Power Sector" which only considers coal and gas power production CCS was a primary input to your cost-effectiveness model of CCS globally (page 117 and footnote 35 of your Nov 21 report "A guide to the changing landscape of high-impact climate philanthropy"). I don't see how this is either a "marginal emissions increase" or "edge case" when it was the primary justification for CATF to support 45Q at the $85/ton level. Have you significantly changed your cost-effectiveness model for CCS since you released your report in November? We can have some nuance about 45Q here. Why not just say to CATF "lobby for only industrial CCS, keep the level at $30-$40/ton, and don't lobby to remove the 75% capture requirement"?
Online preferendum to select climate policy measures

"That's correct, but wouldn't you say that looking at this empirical data can give a sense of how realistic it is that in the next decade(s) we will make a sharp turn for the better? I think this report of the EEB certainly makes a fair case that we won't. Even if you don't agree with the conclusion of the paper, it's a bit easy to dismiss all the data (and the neutral, transparent way it was selected) along with it."

Decoupling as a large-scale technological transformations requires (i) time and (ii) dedicated effort (public investment, private investment,... (read more)

It seems that you (and I suppose many with you) have accepted global warming of considerably more than 2°C, where I am still (in your view, I assume, naïvely) looking for ways to avoid that. I think it's striking how most people seem to treat our current behavior and desires and habits as a given, an unchangeable fact (this for instance also struck me reading Gates' book); whereas I try to see the laws of physics, and its current 'best effort' implications regarding a maximum number of PPM of GHG in the atmosphere, as a given - and look for ways to stay below those thresholds using societal parameters - in this case, democracy. Clearly in order to reach net zero emissions at some point, we need technological innovation and market forces. But if we want to stay well below 2°, preferably at 1,5°, waiting for those won't cut it: during the coming decade(s), we would spend all of our remaining carbon budget to stay within those boundaries with some degree of certainty. Also, for 2050, all scenarios I've seen for my country Belgium include quite substantial behavioral changes on top of all (hoped for) technological changes. E.g.: [] In order to sufficiently reduce our emissions the coming decade(s), while working as quickly as possible on the technological advancements, we need behavioral changes. Sure enough, through current party-political means, this is unthinkable, as outlined above. Hence I propose here an alternative democratic tool which could help achieve doing what's necessary. In principle, I currently don't yet see a reason why this couldn't work, on the time scale required: within a couple of years. It's nothing more than an idea, a concept, for which I believe the time is ripe, which can spread extremely quickly. Technologically, it's really not complex to implement, and practically it is also feasible. But of course, this i
Online preferendum to select climate policy measures

Thanks for writing this!
From your source 1 (italics mine): 
"We conclude that large rapid absolute reductions of resource use and GHG emissions cannot be achieved through observed decoupling rates, hence decoupling needs to be complemented by sufficiency-oriented strategies and strict enforcement of absolute reduction targets. More research is needed on interdependencies between wellbeing, resources and emissions."

This seems like an obvious mistake in reasoning, where the lack of evidence of observed decoupling rates is taken as evidence that dec... (read more)

That's correct, but wouldn't you say that looking at this empirical data can give a sense of how realistic it is that in the next decade(s) we will make a sharp turn for the better? I think this report of the EEB [] certainly makes a fair case that we won't. Even if you don't agree with the conclusion of the paper, it's a bit easy to dismiss all the data (and the neutral, transparent way it was selected) along with it. I really wish I could (still) believe that absolute decoupling alone will suffice. May I ask where you get your optimism from? Of course there can never be proof either way, but all I read and hear stems me ever more pessimistic... I've read McAfee, Gates and in Belgium Maarten Boudry on the subject, but I don't find their case reassuring, rather the contrary (read my reviews here [] and here [] ). In short; sure, absolute decoupling exists and must be (continued to be) pursued as quickly as possible. But the only question that's relevant is: will it be enough, in time, with low enough risk, so as to not deplete the remaining carbon budget? Every year that passes where we deplete 35 Gt of the 300-800 Gt remaining budget to stay below 1,5°-2° with some degree of certainty, leaves less room for a positive answer... How much more data, how many more of the linked meta-studies, how many more alarming IPCC reports do we need before we admit that we also need to urgently take measures of sufficiency - especially heeding the precautionary principle? Either way, also 'technological' solutions will have negative impact on citizens or the environment. Take for instance installing wind turbines, utility-scale pipelines,... A preferendum could help citizens choose between such alternatives too. It is entirely agnostic about which kinds o
On Caring

For me, and I have heard this from many other people in EA, this has been a deeply  touching essay and is among the best short statements of the core of EA.


Democratising Risk - or how EA deals with critics

It is basic background knowledge that degrowth literature exists (which John knows), it is not basic background knowledge that we "know" that we could implement degrowth without major humanitarian consequences as degrowth has never been demonstrated at global scale.  The opposite is not true either (so you might characterize Halstead as over-confident).

Degrowth is not a strategy we could clearly implement to tackle climate challenge (we do not know whether it is politically or techno-economically feasible and one can plausibly be quite skeptical) and ... (read more)

Democratising Risk - or how EA deals with critics

I think there is a "not" missing: "view if it is held by a majority of the global population."

2John G. Halstead8mo
sorry, yeah corrected
Where are you donating in 2021, and why?

Hi Lucas! On CATF, our new report  does include a new conservative back of the envelope calculation why we think organizations like CATF are so cost-effective (in "Background") and, more importantly than this one particular estimate, brings together the underlying reasoning.  I also hope to publish some retrospective analysis on grants to CATF and Carbon180 in the new year (pertaining to impact on climate policy in the US) as well as prospective new cost-effectiveness estimates for CATF (pertaining to a grant for CATF under a different theory of ... (read more)

6Lucas Lewit-Mendes8mo
Thanks Saulius and Johannes! Sounds like these are both fantastic giving opportunities. Re the Welfare Footprint Project, my understanding is that we need these welfare estimates to calculate the effect of the Better Chicken Commitment (for example) on years of suffering averted, i.e. something like: 65 years of chicken life * (difference in hours per chicken life of disabling or excruciating pain between slower growing breeds and faster growing breeds / hours lived per chicken life). Is that the approach you would take Saulius? Johannes, thanks for linking that cost-effectiveness work, and looking forward to seeing further updates!
[Linkpost] New post on COP26-related grants from the FP Climate Fund

Hi James,

thanks for your questions!

Re 1, the ToC is actually different -- the report was already produced, but -- we believe -- would not have been sufficiently amplified absent the grant, so it is more about the latter part of your chain. 

Re 2, this is roughly what we would do if the sums justified it -- this was a small grant and we operate by the principle of keeping detail of analysis roughly proportional to money moved, so we accepted higher uncertainty here.  Something we will be thinking more about going forward if we evaluate similar gran... (read more)

Climate Change: Prevention vs Preperation
Answer by jackvaNov 07, 202110

(somewhat weakly held)

Climate outcomes aren't binary (succeed / fail) so the question is always "should the next dollar go to mitigation or adaptation?" irrespectively of whether specific targets are reached.

The bar for adaptation actions to be the most cost-effective seems quite high, as most adaptation options seem quite localized actions (hard to scale and hard to be extremely cost-effective), whereas the best things you can fund on the mitigation side will have global effects (such as changing the trajectory of clean energy adoption).

One exception to that could be stuff like accelerating more weather-resistant crops if that is neglected.

I think overall adaptation is more neglected than mitigation. There is quite a bit of work on drought and heat tolerant crops. However, there is very little work on scenarios of abrupt climate change, such as the shutdown of the thermohaline circulation that could cause abrupt cooling in Europe (and has in the past). There is also very little work on backup plans for extreme weather on multiple continents causing a multiple breadbasket failure. And there is very little work on adaption to extreme climate change that occurs slowly (over a century). ALLFED []is trying to fill these gaps.
Good news on climate change

1. "But the IEA estimates account for lack of progress in these sectors, so they don't affect the central point of our piece. "

This is important and possibly a bit confusing in the piece, the 2.5-3 degree world is now the default on fairly pessimistic assumptions about further progress.

2. Also, another thing that the estimates do not reflect are the effects of recent net-zero commitments + uptick in cleantech investment, both public and private. If the current surge in cleantech spending persists, we should expect effects in technologies beyond the usual s... (read more)

Good news on climate change

Thanks Dan! Let me clarify. Whether or not that is additional evidence depends on what informs the prior view.

But if one digs deeper on "what are the causes for the change in emissions predictions?" almost all of those are related to technology-specific support policies, not (i) actions that were meant to maximally reduce emissions in the short term (which, in the early 2000s would not have been massive solar subsidies which were primarily motivated by love of solar and hate of nuclear, in the German case, not climate) nor (ii) rich country policy advocacy... (read more)

Good news on climate change

Thanks Dan!

My personal view is that this is one input to a very complex cause prioritization question.

While it (a) certainly reduces the "naïve"  importance of climate somewhat (though mind the fact that this is only about temperature here, it could be that changed views on the badness of different temperatures went the opposite way), (b) it also shows the incredible tractability and cost-effectiveness of a particular policy (technology-specific support and innovation policy) which underlies most of the change in expected emissions and which we can ma... (read more)

1Dan Stein9mo
Thanks Johannes for the reply. I agree with you on (a) and (c), but I'm a bit confused on (b). I understand (and for the most part) agree with your view that "technology-specific support and innovation policy" is a very promising route for philanthropic engagement to fight climate change, but I'm struggling to see how this recent shift in climate badness predictions adds additional support for this route of intervention vis-a-vis other mechanisms (rich-country policy advocacy concentrated on reducing domestic emissions, projects that directly reduce emissions in the short term, etc.)

I hope to have time for a longer comment on Monday, but for now some quick clarifications (I work at FP and currently lead the climate work):

1. Linch's comment on FP funding is roughly right, for FP it is more that a lot of FP members do not have liquidity yet (it is a pledge on liquidity events).

2. I spent >40h engaging with the original FP Climate Report as an external expert reviewer (in 2017 and 2018, before I joined FP in 2019). There were also lots of other external experts consulted.

3. There isn't, as of now, an agreed-to-methodology on how to ev... (read more)

Hi Johannes! I appreciate you taking the time. "Linch's comment on FP funding is roughly right, for FP it is more that a lot of FP members do not have liquidity yet" I see, my mistake! But is my estimate sufficiently off to overturn my conclusion? " There were also lots of other external experts consulted." Great! Do you agree that it would be useful to make this public? "There isn't, as of now, an agreed-to-methodology on how to evaluate advocacy charities, you can't hire an expert for this." And the same ist true for evaluating cost-effectiveness analyses of advocacy charities (e.g. yours on CATF)? "So the fact that you can be much more cost-effective when you are risk-neutral and leverage several impact multipliers (advocacy, policy change, technological change, increased diffusion) is hard to explain and not intuitively plausible." Sure, thats what I would argue as well. Thats why its important to counter this skepticism by signalling very strongly that your research is trustworthy (e.g. through publishing expert reviews).
Miranda_Zhang's Shortform

"How do you convert a permit into CO2 removal using CDR technologies without selling them back into the compliance market – in effect negating the offset?

We will sell the permits back into the market, but only when we’re ready to use the proceeds to fund carbon removal projects equivalent to the number of permits we’re selling, or more. So, in effect, the permits going back onto the market are negated by the tons of carbon we are paying to remove."

Once credible CDR is so cheap (now > USD 100/t, most approaches over USD 600, cf Stripe Climate) that this ... (read more)

Hmm okay! Thanks so much for this. So I suppose the main uncertainties for me are * whether I trust that the cap will remain fixed * whether the cap-and-trade system is more effective than the offsets I was considering Really appreciate you helping clarify this for me!
Giving Green: An early investigation into the impact of insider and outsider policy advocacy on climate change

Thanks, Dan & team, for that!  interesting to see how your thinking evolves. As requested, here are some comments:

On funding and room for funding:
1. Big Green over-funding is not the right reference class for neglected issue advocates and probably more informative for grassroots
2. As discussed, 2019 numbers for grassroots are not informative
3. Room for funding is larger, but that is not indicative of marginal impact

Other issues:
4. Rewiring America does not fit the bucket of working on high-impact neglected solutions 
5. Given time-lag and poli... (read more)

1Dan Stein1y
Hi Jackva, Thanks so much for your detailed and thoughtful response, we really appreciate your engagement. Some quick responses to your points: On funding and room for funding: 1. Big Green over-funding is not the right reference class for neglected issue advocatesand probably more informative for grassroots You’re right that it’s a bit tough to place the Big Greens in a conceptual framework, because they do so many diverse activities. We place them more in the “insider” category since a lot of their activities for federal policy fall on the insider spectrum (lobbying, model bills, etc.) But you’re right that they do outsider activities too, so the categorization isn’t clear. In any case, I don’t think getting the taxonomy right is so important. We still think that the big greens tend to have lot of funding, and we think in general the value of a marginal contribution (be it for insider or outsider) activities is likely not cost-effective. That’s not to mention what I think is the biggest problem with most of the Big Greens which is that they are not squarely focused on climate, which is enough to eliminate them in our criteria. 2.As discussed, 2019 numbers for grassroots are not informative We sometimes quote 2019 numbers because this is the last year that public 990s are available for most organizations, and in general these still allow meaningful order-of-magnitude comparisons. We are well aware that funding for certain orgs (such as Sunrise) have increased dramatically over the past couple of years, and are taking that into account in our analysis. 3. Room for funding is larger, but that isnot indicative of marginal impact Totally agree that overall budget or room for funding is a blunt instrument against which to measure marginal impact. It’s just one input into a complicated prediction. As far as calculating the actual return of funding effective activism, we are actively working on this going forward, and are going to post more on our thinking relat
Betting on the best case: higher end warming is underrepresented in research

Paris Agreement targets are till 2030, so I'd be less deterministic wrt what is possible till 2100, looking at Liu and Raftery it sounds as though they are just extrapolating current trends.

In worlds where we would keep temperature <2C by 2100, I would expect large structural breaks, not getting there by trend extrapolation/incremental steps (e.g. decarbonization getting really cheap and easy at some point, or negative emissions becoming very affordable and scaleable etc.).


Betting on the best case: higher end warming is underrepresented in research

Cool stuff!

I don't think this changes the fundamental conclusion, but there are a couple of choices here that seem to make this imbalance larger than it really is:

  1. The Wagner and Weitzman probabilities are pre-Paris-Agreement era and newer estimates would probably put quite a bit lower probability on extreme warming levels (e.g. see here).
  2. Because policy targets are focused on 1.5 and 2 degrees, a lot of sections of the IPCC report will study those scenarios more, whereas the real concern seems the understudy of climate impacts (the problem is not that
... (read more)
3James Ozden1y
Thanks for that paper Johannes, it was mildly reassuring to read. One thing I was struck by is this section in the discussion (bold emphasis mine) is that an 80% increase in decarbonisation rates relative to Paris commitments seems quite large and slightly ironically, not very plausible. Is there any evidence that countries are making or planning to make such a radical step up in their decarbonisation, as it seems like their policies don't even reflect this?
1. We settled on Wagner and Weitzman because it is well known and also because they were kind enough to provide us with their data and code. It is indeed true that other probability curves might paint a more optimistic picture. However, the differences are so large that I would be surprised if it would change the conclusion of our paper. 2. We looked at the complete IPCC reports, because we wanted to understand the overall focus of policy relevant research. But it is indeed true that the research gap differs between the working groups and the research gap is larger when it comes to the impact focused reports.
Further thoughts on charter cities and effective altruism

Founders Pledge is not a foundation at all and, indeed, Founders Pledge members can decide where to allocate their money, it is not centrally decided by FP as an org (though of course we try to convince our members to give to high-impact causes).


EA cause areas are just areas where great interventions should be easier to find

FWIW, this is pretty much the rationale behind the climate recs of FP, we recommend orgs we think can leverage the enormous societal resources poured into climate into the most productive uses within the space. In line with your reasoning we also think that events that increase overall allocation to climate might improve the cost-effectiveness of the climate recs (e.g. Biden's victory leading to higher returns).

I would also think (though don't know for certain) that OPP's recent bid to hire in global aid advocacy would draw on a similar theory of change, improving resource allocation in a field that is, comparatively speaking, not neglected.

Can someone verify offsetting or tree planting NGOs are bad?
Answer by jackvaJul 14, 202121

There's not necessarily a contradiction here, as both DGB and Klein describe specific instances (both could be true at the same time).

That said, EAs have, by and large, moved away from recommending forestry offsets for a host of reasons, including difficulty to ensure additionality and permanence.

You might also find this relevant:

On your questions more directly:

Q1: In a world where a focus on lifestyle advocacy makes a large difference to emissions (i.e. is cost-effective), I am fairly unconcerned about climate -- this is not a world with a lot of climate risk.
Conversely, in the worlds where most of the risk is -- high growth pressures and low willingness to pay for climate -- such a strategy will not be cost-effective whereas a strategy focused on making low-carbon energy the option of choice irrespective of concern about climate will (what I called the "shit hits the fan principl... (read more)

This also strikes me as pretty relevant in this context, essentially the IPCC's scenarios do not include futures where energy demand does not increase and a doubling (compared to 2010) is roughly in the middle of considered scenarios (of course, this is very simplistic, not all of those scenarios are equally plausible, nor does the IPCC necessarily capture the entire range of possilble futures, but it gives a good sense of how unlikely a scenario such as the one the paper you cite uses is in the overall range of views). (read more)

Thanks, James!

More on this later, but for now just two points:

I. Doubling is not dramatic: Doubling of energy supply is not a dramatic increase in at least two ways:

  1. It looks quite conservative when considering the demographic and economic dynamics you mention (60% population increase, hopefully at least a tripling in GDP per capita, i.e. something like a 5x larger economy). Saying one expects energy demand to only double by end of century assumes a lot of reductions in energy intensity, i.e. increased efficiency, structural change, and, possibly, deman

... (read more)
1James Ozden1y
Quick reply from me too - You're right, doubling isn't so dramatic so I'll amend that sentence. What I really meant to say was that we have to scale up our low-carbon energy production from roughly 17,500 TWh in 2020 to 308,000TWh in 2100, an increase of almost 17x, which seems more dramatic to me! Will reply to the following later.
Event-driven mission correlated investing and the 2020 US election

We have two things going on here beyond just partisan switch (discussed in more detail in the report) that do make this a special moment unlikely to re-occur.

(1) Elevated importance: The importance of the 2020 election for climate policy was much elevated because of COVID-related stimulus spending, the difference between Trump-Biden is much starker than the difference Trump-Clinton was in 2016 because of the much enlarged policy opportunity.

(2) Carbon lock-in: the leverage that US climate policy has  is declining sharply as its main benefits in terms ... (read more)

Good points.
Event-driven mission correlated investing and the 2020 US election


Some decision points in climate that could be interesting to use this for:

* 2021 German elections (which will impact EU climate policy, though it is a bit unclear in which direction)
2022 US mid-term elections (more value if Democrats can beat the odds and keep Congressional majority)

Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

Bill Gates' How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is a pretty good introduction to the challenge, very accessible and framing the challenge of climate change in the wider context of  a developing world with rising energy needs (something the debate too often forgets).

Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air  is somewhat dated now, but a classic and available freely on the internet (

The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success by Mark Jaccard is also good, although it does not give a full overview in the way the other books mentioned here do.

2John G. Halstead1y
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

My position is roughly the following:

1. I agree with this line of reasoning in the way that CATF presents it, i.e. that while there is a possibility that intermittent renewables alone could be sufficient, this is not particularly like and, crucially, this is not where most climate risk is that we should hedge against.

Of course there is (and CATF acknowledges this) a future where intermittent renewables solve almost the entire decarbonization challenge, but this requires a lot of things to go right including (1) continued cost reductions, (2) solving the ch... (read more)

Thank you! This is helpful - I'm currently looking at CATF as part of my work with SoGive. The case CATF makes seems sensible and evidence-based, but given my relative lack of expertise in this area it's hard to know how they selective they are being in terms of the evidence they present. So it's useful to have an outside view.
Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

Many US-based advanced nuclear companies aim for first commercial plants by end of this decade, here's an overview over timelines: 

I am not particularly optimistic about nuclear in much of Western Europe (with the possible exception of UK, Netherlands and France) because of the strong anti-nuclear sentiments you mention. 

But a more serious climate conversation (how to actually reach targets) could also lead to changes here. That said, my... (read more)

Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

This is one consideration among many, but if low-coordination futures are (a) a significant part of the probability mass (b) and are sufficiently bad (both of which seem plausible) this can be an important consideration in favor of innovation / solutions that work when shit hits the fan.

At FP, we're trying to get a better handle on the quantitative import of this consideration and others to be able to make more informed statements about how the balance shakes out (e.g. hypothetically, what if policy leadership was really neglected and super high... (read more)

Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

Yes, I (and I think we?) very much agree with that -- that's why we (FP) are supporting Carbon180 as the key advocacy org focused on this solution:

Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

I agree with that answer, I think now is not the time on climate to do something that takes 10 years to have significant effects. Apart from that, it seems unlikely that the marginal climate scientist will have much impact on climate progress.


Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

I am happy to address this tomorrow!

It's a trade-off, for sure, but I tend to believe the differentials are much larger than 10x because of the various independent impact multipliers from advocacy  * neglectedness * innovation.

[Linkpost] Updates on the FP Climate Fund

Hi James,

thanks for the questions!

Re 1:
This is a conservative guess (something like 90% confidence that it is at least 2x as impactful, possibly quite a bit more than that). We hope to more analysis on this once we have more data (e.g. the fund running longer). 

But here are some more of the underlying data and observations:

a. Our 250k grant to TerraPraxis grant was the first major (>50k) philanthropic grant to this org (incl. its predecessor, Energy for Humanity) and put it the org significantly more on the map, then being able to crowd in 1 millio... (read more)

Don't we need political action rather than charity?

It's true that political action is a necessary step towards achieving meaningful, lasting change. However, the dichotomy between political action and philanthropy is a false one. Both play an important role in improving the world, and they can be mutually beneficial.


This (and the infographic that follows) seem quite contradictory to me -- first stating it is a false dichotomy but then reinforcing that false dichotomy but describing the two as distinct components that can be complementary. 

The article then later focuses on what seems the str... (read more)

HIPR: A new EA-aligned policy newsletter

The goal is to make this newsletter very accessible and useful both to anyone interested in policy (not just EAs) and get people thinking more about what the most impactful, influential policy really is.

Thanks for this work! Commenting on the climate section (the topic I know most about, not really expert in the other domains you cover), inferring importance and influentialness from the write-up seems hard -- it looks like a round-up of interesting developments, but with little prioritization and assessment between them.

E.g. the American Jobs Plan is argua... (read more)

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