[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.
What we are saying:
1. Donations are a complement to lifestyle choices: Donations to effective climate charities provide an excellent complement to more conventional lifestyle changes such as flying less, eating less meat, etc.
2. Huge differences in impact: When we think about different lifestyle choices, there are huge differences in impact. It is important to be broadly aware of this to have the most positive effect through lifestyle changes.
3. Policy matters for lifestyle choices: In many industrialised economies, there are now an increasing set of climate targets and policies that do affect the impact of lifestyle choices. This is a good thing because it makes target achievement less dependent on everyone being voluntarily virtuous. But it also means this is something we need to take into account when considering which lifestyle changes to implement.
What we are not saying:
1. We are not denying individual responsibility: We are not saying that policy and the opportunity to donate negate individual responsibility for lifestyle decisions. Rather, we are seeking to expand the actions pursued by climate conscious individuals.
2. Donations are not offsets: We are not saying that donation is a form of offsetting. Rather, it is a form of increasing impact; indeed we think that the mindset of offsetting artificially limits our ambition far beyond what it could be.
3. We are not saying that you should or shouldn’t have children: We mostly discuss this example since it has been discussed heavily in prior work and we believe prior analyses have significantly overstated the impact of this choice.
4. We are not claiming that our estimates are 100% precise: Our estimates—in particular with regards to policy—should not be taken as exactly precise, as there are different assumptions and uncertainties flowing into the analysis. Rather, they should be taken as indicative to give a sense of how policy changes the picture.