That sounds right to me. (And Will, your drawbridge metaphor is wonderful.)
My impression is that there already is some grumbling about EA being too elitist/out-of-touch/non-diverse/arrogant/navel-gazing/etc., and discussions in the community about what can be done to fix that perception. Add to that Toby Ord's realization (in his well-marketed book) that hey, perhaps climate change is a bigger x-risk (if indirectly) than he had previously thought, and I think we have fertile ground for posts like this one. EA's attitude has already shifted once (away from earning-to-give); perhaps the next shift is an embrace of issues that are already in the public consciousness, if only to attract more diversity into the broader community.
I've had smart and very morally-conscious friends laugh off the entirety of EA as "the paperclip people", and others refer to Peter Singer as "that animal guy". And I think that's really sad, because they could be very valuable members of the community if we had been more conscious to avoid such alienation. Many STEM-type EAs think of PR considerations as distractions from the real issues, but that might mean leaving huge amounts of low-hanging utility fruit unpicked.
Explicitly putting present-welfare and longtermism on equal footing seems like a good first step to me.
What a fantastic post. Thank you! Your frustration resonates strongly with me. I think the dismissive attitude towards climate issues may well be an enormous waste of goodwill towards EA concepts.
How many young/wealthy people stumble upon 80k/GiveWell/etc. with heartfelt enthusiasm for solving climate, The Big Issue Of Our Time, only to be snubbed? How many of them could significantly improve their career/giving plans if they received earnest help with climate-related cause prioritization, instead of ivory-tower lecturing about weirdo x-risks?
Can't we save that stuff for later? "If you like working on climate, you might also be interested in ..."?
This isn't to say that EA's marginal-impact priorities are wrong; I myself work mainly on AI safety right now. But a career in nuclear energy is still more useful than one in recyclable plastic straw R&D (or perhaps it isn't?), and that's worth researching and talking about.
I've spent a good bit of time in the environmental movement and if anyone could use a heavy dose of rationality and numeracy, it's climate activists. I consider drawdown.org a massive accomplishment and step in the right direction. It's sometimes dismissed on this forum for being too narrow-minded, and that's probably fair, but then what's EA's answer, besides a few uncertain charity recommendations? Where's our GiveWell for climate?
Given that people's concern about climate change is only going up, I hope that this important conversation is here to stay. Thanks again for posting!
For those concerned about wild animals, such a quick rate of decline could give some reassurance (in addition to the theoretical arguments) that wild insect populations will be small in the long-run.
For those of us more active in other cause areas, could you clarify what you mean by this? Are you coming from an anti-natalist angle here, and is that the prevalent position in the wild animal community? What are the additional "theoretical arguments" for expecting small insect populations?
Thanks for posting this. I am grateful they published this report, and I hope that their explicit reframing in terms of existential risk will get the EA community's attention.
The EA standpoint so far has been "lots of money is already being thrown at climate change, it's mostly a question of policy now". And that's true. Good ideas are out there: fee-and-dividend carbon pricing, Project Drawdown, etc.; all it takes is political will. Unfortunately, in my experience, many EAs take this to mean that climate change is an issue they can't help with.
It's true that it is difficult finding out which policy approaches are effective and politically viable, and it's also difficult to convince others that the climate needs urgent attention. Therefore, it seems to me that there is still much potential for EA organizations to give better advice to those of us who want to contribute not as donors or full-time researchers, but as citizens doing some "effective activism" in their spare time. If anyone can point me to work that has been or is being done in this direction, I would be grateful.