Nir Eyal

Henry Rutgers Professor of Bioethics @ Rutgers University
Working (15+ years of experience)



Nir Eyal is the inaugural Henry Rutgers Professor of Bioethics at Rutgers University. He founded and directs Rutgers’s Center for Population-Level Bioethics, with appointments at the School of Public Health and the Department of Philosophy. Dr. Eyal’s work falls primarily in population-level bioethics, and he co-edits OUP’s series in that area. He also contributes to research ethics and to other areas of ethics and political philosophy. Earlier, when he was a faculty member at Harvard, he started with students Harvard’s effective altruism activities.


Thank you, Konstantin, for a closely argued response. I agree with much of what you say (though I would stretch much longer the 1000 years figure). Any disagreement with your conclusion ("there is probably room for some funding for climate change from a longtermist perspective, ... I'd be happy to see a small fraction of longtermist resources directed to this problem") may pertain only to numbers--to the exact size of the "small fraction". I agree, specifically, that it TENDS to be MUCH more urgent to fund AI safety and biosecurity work, from a longtermist perspective. Remember that I ENDORSE the "admittedly greater extinction potential and scantier funding of some other existential risks as broad categories"...

Your point about what one may call the  potential reversibility of climate change or of its worst  sequelae  is definitely worth developing. I have discussed it with others but haven't seen it developed at length in writing. Sometimes it is what longtermists seem to mean when they write that climate change is not a neglected area. But analytically it is  separate from e.g. the claim that others are already  on the case of curbing concurrent emissions (which are therefore  not a neglected area). A related challenge for you: The potential reversibility of a long-term risk is not only a reason to prioritize the prevention of other risks, the onset of which is irreversible and hence more calamitous, over preventing that risk. It is also a reason to prioritize one area of work on that risk, namely, its effective  reversal. Indeed, when I wrote that longtermists should invest in geoengineering,  I had in mind primarily strategies like carbon capture, which could be seen as reversing some harms of our greenhouse gas emissions. 


Thanks! See my section "Strong vs. weak longtermist dismissal of climate change, and why either is wrong". The "weak" position described in the second paragraph of that section seems to be the one you are alluding to. See also my answer to that position.  

Thanks! Not my numbers - i just quoted others - but there is a big difference between forced mass migration and voluntary targeted migration. 

Thanks! Sure, various issues might in theory interfere with international cooperation efforts, but as regards climate change, we  see tensions over very large economic stakes on compensation, reparation etc unfolding before our eyes. Just this past month, there were two big illustrations of this. In addition to the UN discussions of a global tax to pay for climate-related  loss and damage, a link on which I included, there was this

As expensive disasters and flooding abound, new tensions are  likely to arise and interfere with the ability to work together on addressing existential risks, through two mechanisms: 

  1. angry parties don't work well together (a recent illustration is how the Ukraine war foiled progress on climate).
  2. parties with acute, time-sensitive needs will sometimes try to force  stronger parties who are relatively indifferent to those needs to address them by making addressing them a condition for cooperation on shared needs. That can infuriate the stronger parties, who feel blackmailed. Cooperation on the shared needs then collapses (that seems to be precisely how acute, time sensitive needs in development assistance brought down recent  discussions of the biological weapons convention - see my link to the 80,000 hours podcast  with Jaime Yassif).  Climate change will often create acute, time sensitive needs (e.g. in flooding relief, in license to immigrate).