Risk of Mass Human Suffering / Extinction due to Climate Emergency

by willfranks1 min read14th Mar 20193 comments

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The good folks at Extinction Rebellion are working crazy hard to promote the scientific case for impending societal and economic collapse due to climate change.

This is their talk presenting that case: Heading for Extinction and What to Do About It

I'm curious as to whether this (lesswrong /EA) community finds the case scientifically convincing, and further, whether their strategy for nonviolent direct action (i.e. taking to the streets and not moving until the government respond to demands) is the best plan of action (given the apparently mounting urgency of action on carbon emissions)?

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1)Climate change caused extinction is not on the table. Low tech humans can survive everywhere from the jungle to the arctic. Some humans will survive.

2) I suspect that climate change won't cause massive social collapse. It might well knock 10% of world GDP, but it won't stop us having an advanced high tech society. At the moment, its not causing damage on that scale, and I suspect that in a few decades, we will have biotech, renewables or other techs that will make everything fine. I suspect that the damage caused by climate change won't increase by more than 2 or 3 times in the next 50 years.

3) If you are skilled enough to be a scientist, inventing a solar panel that's 0.5% more efficient does a lot more good than showing up to protests. Protest's need many people to work, inventors can change the world by themselves. Policy advisors and academics can suggest action in small groups. Even working a normal job and sending your earnings to a well chosen charity is likely to be more effective.

4) Quite a few people are already working on global warming. It seems unlikely that a problem needs 10,000,001 people working on it to solve, and if only 10,000,000 people work on it, they won't manage. Most of the really easy work on global warming is already being done. This is not the case with AI risk as of 10 years ago, for example. (It's got a few more people working on it since then, still nothing like climate change.)

I mostly endorse this, but want to add that the only proposal of "climate changed driven extinction" I've heard about specifically requires human action, wherein we attempt to do a massive geoengineering project to curtail climate change that *requires continuous intervention*, and then prematurely *stop* that intervention.

(This is half-remembered from a talk Seth Baum gave awhile back)

I do not have time to wade through a one hour presentation without a strong indication that it is very good.

Found and read the speaker notes.

  • Utterly fails to make the case
  • Basically it is emotive activist propaganda
  • Full of left wing applause lights
  • I agree global heating is a big problem. A wicked hard to solve problem. Along with a lot of other problems we face that are just as bad or worse. I find it strange - this mono-focus on global heating.