Founders Pledge Climate & Lifestyle Report

post by jackva · 2020-02-11T09:57:30.289Z · EA · GW · 4 comments

This is a link post for


  Main conclusions:

[Updated, replaced prior description with newly added section of key points from the main report]

John Halstead and I have published a new report (and attendant blog posts, here and here) on the impact of different lifestyle choices on climate, how those are affected by policy, and how they compare to donations.

Main conclusions:

What we are saying:

What we are not saying:


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-02-15T00:03:34.728Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for sharing this to the Forum! I especially appreciate the "what we are not saying" section, which covers all the most common concerns I've seen around discussion of the topic. The frame of "expanding actions, rather than negating responsibility" is one I can imagine using when people ask about (EA + climate change) in the future.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-03-10T09:59:48.116Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The second blog post you linked requires a code word for site access -- I think you meant to link here?

comment by Aidan O'Gara · 2020-12-10T06:14:50.052Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for sharing this, really love the Main Conclusions here. As usual with comments, most of what you’re saying makes sense to me, but I’d like to focus on one quibble about the presentation of your conclusions.

I think Figure 2 in the report could be easily be misinterpreted as strong evidence for a conclusion you later disavow: that by far the most important lifestyle choice for reducing your CO2 emissions is whether you have another child. The Key Takeaways section begins with this striking chart where the first bar is taller than all the rest added up, but the body paragraphs give context and caveats before finishing on a more sober conclusion. The conclusion makes perfect sense to me, but it’s the opposite of what I would’ve guessed looking at the first chart in the section. If you’re most confident in the estimates that account for government policy, you could make them alone your first chart, and only discuss the other (potentially misleading) estimates later.

I probably only noticed this because you’re discussing such a hot button issue. Footnotes work for dry academic questions, but when the question is having fewer kids to reduce carbon emissions, I start thinking about how Twitter and CNN would read this.

Anyways, hope that’s helpful, feel free to disagree, and thanks for the great research!

comment by alexrjl · 2020-02-17T13:31:21.099Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for posting. I think it's really valuable to have high quality cause area specific analysis to point interested non-EAs towards and that founder's pledge has consistently been a great source of exactly this.

I'm a little skeptical about the strength of the claims around the waterbed effect. It seems like governments historically have been much better at setting targets than meeting them, and that individual emissions make targets marginally less likely to be hit. It seems likely that e.g. if in 2040 it becomes clear that there's no way the UK will meet its 2050 target without huge and extremely costly changes, the government will move the target target than implement them, which would make anything that makes the target harder to hit potentially very harmful.