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What's the most effective way to tackle climate change?

My take on research in effective altruism to date.

It seems that many popular approaches (eg recycling, planting trees) don't obviously work or are expensive ($100+ per tonne CO2), but...

/1
By focusing on more neglected, high-leverage solutions, you can probably reduce CO2 for under $1/tonne, and have 100-times the impact.

How?

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To end climate change, we need to:

1. Electrify the economy
2. Produce abundant green energy
3. Remove remaining CO2 from the atmosphere.

Doing this is very possible.

And we've already made a lot of progress.

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Where's the biggest leverage point right now?

Green energy R&D is a strong candidate:

* Amazing track record of returns
* Could solve much of the problem globally.
* Doesn't require convincing people
* Big co-benefits




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In contrast, many focus on regulating emissions in the UK/US/EU, but only 15% of future emissions will come from these regions.

And while there's potential for leverage, you're also trying to convince people to make sacrifices.

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Where's best to focus within green energy R&D?

Almost all attention is focused on renewables like solar and wind, so these are unlikely to be the highest-return areas today.

Instead..

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Focus on green tech that is:

1. Unfairly disliked (eg nuclear could be a big part of the solution but only receives 1.4% of advocacy dollars)

2. Not widely known (eg hot rock geothermal: 0.5% spending)

3. Unsexy (eg decarbonising cement rather than electric cars)

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Besides CO2-free energy, I'd also pick R&D into carbon removal tech.

It'll also be needed to solve the problem, and is very neglected compared to green energy.

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Case study: @cleanaircatf achieves triple leverage on the key lever of green energy via:

1. policy advocacy for
2. innovation support for
3. neglected forms of green energy tech

And has probably had reduced CO2 for < < $1/tonne historically.

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Other examples:

@isabelleboemeke making nuclear energy cool

@kellywanser on insurance policies 80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/kelly-wanser-climate-interventions/

@stripe's advanced market commitments for carbon removal stripe.com/newsroom/news/spring-21-carbon-removal-purchases

@OurWorldInData's great coverage

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How can you help?

Your personal carbon footprint is a distraction popularised by BP.

Cutting your emissions by 50% – which is not easy – saves 5-10 tonnes of CO2 per year.

A well-targeted $10 donation will likely do more good than that.

/11

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_footprint
To fight climate change effectively:

1. Find a job aiding R&D and advocacy for neglected green tech.
80000hours.org/career-reviews/effective-altruist-approach-to-climate-change/

2. Tell people about new solutions. Stand up for unfairly unpopular ones. Advocate for technology agnosticism.

3. Donate: founderspledge.com/funds/climate-change-fund

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If you found this helpful:

1. See our guide to what makes for a high-impact career
80000hours.org/key-ideas/

2. Learn about issues that might be even bigger and more neglected than climate change:
80000hours.org/problem-profiles/

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Fact check: EXCELLENT thread