Thanks for the encouragement. I think that aiming for a “perfect” write-up has been a barrier to publishing content, so I intend for us to publish more shallow reviews to address this.
To answer your question, I think the best focus areas would be the six bullet points highlighted near the start of the article, with a particular focus on the first two (are the stoves actually used, and are they actually clean?) and the last (what is the best way to fund this work?).
Also, we would further investigate the very useful comments made by MatthewDahlhausen (which seemed very useful and was upvoted by me) and look further at the GiveWell analysis as mentioned by cole_haus (I was aware of this, but had not had the capacity to review it properly)
Thank you to JanBrauner for raising this. I have had similar concerns.
However I don’t think stronger moderation is the answer, especially since it’s hard to moderate the comments, which is where most of the poor quality content arises.
Instead, it perhaps needs more concerted efforts from those who have thought about EA ideas more carefully to (nicely and constructively) help to improve the quality of the discussion.
This means participating in the EA facebook group more actively, rather than spending less time on it and just paying attention to the forum (which candidly, is what I’ve found myself doing)
Note: this question was also cross-posted to the Facebook effective environmentalism group https://www.facebook.com/groups/effectiveenvironmentalism/permalink/2306369839662729/
HaukeHillebrandt has recommended supporting Prof Chris Chambers to do this: https://lets-fund.org/better-science/
I too imagined that downloading it and viewing it MS Excel might be better, but as far as I can tell there doesn’t seem to be a way of downloading it. Unless I’ve just not found the way to download?
Thank you for sharing this. Unfortunately the model shared appears to be a values-only version of the model (i.e. when I go to any cell in the spreadsheet, the formula bar just shows a number, not a formula). This makes it very hard to work out how you came to your conclusions.
I don’t know whether it’s showing this way because of the way One Drive operates or because you deliberately removed the formulae before uploading the spreadsheet, however I would certainly find it useful if you could find a way to share the full model. Thank you.
Under certain assumptions, it is possible for eating animal products to be morally better than eating vegan food. In particular, you would have to believe that positive impacts on the animal’s life outweigh the negative aspects, also outperform the net effect of wildlife that would have been on that land no longer being there, and the sustainability impact. I’ve explored this in this blog post, and I suggest in that post that it is possible for eating meat to be the better option, but it probably isn’t: https://interestingthingsiveread.blogspot.com/2018/12/veganism-may-be-net-negative-but-we.html
As KHorton has alluded to, there is a well-established body of literature which indicates that development leads lower Total Fertility Rates. Examples include the books Common Wealth by Jeffrey Sachs and Factfulness by Hans Rosling et al. The following online resources also explore this:
This article indicates that meeting the UN’s SDGs would lead to lower population growth https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/11/28/1611386113
David Roodman has explored this point at GiveWell’s encouragement: https://davidroodman.com/blog/2014/04/16/the-mortality-fertility-link/
Giving What We Can has also written about it: https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/post/2015/09/development-population-growth-and-mortality-fertility-link/
Great that you’re doing this, thanks so much for raising this here!
Not sure if you’re already aware of this, but you might want to be aware of other studies that have looked at similar questions. In particular the Money For Good study in the US and the equivalent in the UK were interesting, albeit somewhat dated. (I have the raw data for the UK study). You might want to have a look so that you can use consistent question wording whether the questions overlap.
Some questions that we at SoGive would be interested to know more about:
The last time you gave to charity, what triggered you to give? (a) someone asked me (b) I decided myself [could break (a) down further, perhaps] [Note, this has been studied before, but to my knowledge not recently. Also I’ve never seen an analysis of the correlates of self-driven giving]
For the donor population, I’d like to understand the split between what we at SoGive call Organisation-loyal, Cause-specific, and Open-minded donors (hopefully the labels are self-explanatory but if not please ask). We would be interested to know specifically to what extent are those preferences moderate preferences (defined as: if the person is choosing a charity to donate to, they will follow that preference) and to what extent are they strong preferences (i.e. if someone else asks them to donate, they will say no unless the donation target is consistent with their preference). We at SoGive currently have some thoughts on this, which I can expand on if you’re interested.
In terms of cause areas, it would be useful to know whether moral-circle thinking is a good model for explaining cause preferences. E.g. if someone is happy to support people in the developing world, are they more likely to support animals? Or those in the far future? (see also the research we conducted on attitudes to the far future)
A deeper understanding of why people never donate would be interesting. Self-reported answers tell us something, but there is some evidence that donors (at least some of the time) are non-donors because they just don’t want to give and are looking for excuses (“motivated reasoning”). I wrote about this here, and referenced some studies, e.g. this, this and this (which were mentioned to me by a contact at Rethink Charity). Something which tried to quantify this (i.e. how many non-donors will never give, and how many non-donors would give if their needs were better met) would be really interesting, but possibly too hard for the scope of your study.
Some researchers are doing some interesting work on how people give—the names Beth Breeze and Cat Walker spring to mind, although there are others as well. But you may well be too time-constrained to wade through all their work, in which case I suggest you just take a look at the Money for Good studies mentioned earlier.
More generally, very happy to discuss further. If you are willing to have a chat, let me know: sanjay [at] sogive.org
And is it fair to say that if it applies to the GD impact, then applying it differentially across countries no longer makes sense? (i.e. Hauke’s original approach does make sense after all?)
Thank you for your reply, and sorry that my reply is rushed.
Re: ” Also, I’m not sure I follow your claim that no income adjustment is happening in the GDvCC model. Even your new tab has a row labelled “income adjustment” with the number 1260 which is consequential in the final result ” my claim isn’t meant to be that there is no income adjustment, but rather that there is no income adjustment to the SCC figures—there is income adjustment to the cash transfer figures. (Sorry, can’t remember how I phrased this before, so might not have been clear)
Thank you very much to cole_haus for doing this. I definitely value it when people take the time to challenge analysis done by others.
As I understand it, the original analysis done by HaukeHillebrandt was correct.
Here’s my understanding:
In his earlier post, HaukeHillebrandt set out a calculation for the ratio of the impactfulness of climate change interventions versus GiveDirectly, which can be found in this spreadsheet.
This spreadsheet included a (potentially somewhat confusingly labelled) row called “Social cost of carbon per tonne (relative to cash transfers)”
The analysis done here by cole_haus is, as I understand it, based on the assumption that we need to take the social cost of carbon and apply an income adjustment to it
However, I don’t believe that this is necessary—I believe that the existing social cost of carbon figures are already on a consistent basis and don’t need to be adjusted further
What’s more, the original spreadsheet doesn’t seem to have actually been doing this (although it looked it did). To see this, take a look at this copy of the spreadsheet that I created. I created a new tab called ” SJ CC v GD ” which recreates the original calcs, but shows that there is no income adjustment to the social cost of carbon.
Happy to have my understanding corrected if I’ve misunderstood.
+1 to this, I definitely found Portfolios of the Poor a great way of actually understanding the lives of the globally poor
I would say probability and statistics.
If you want to do evidence-based things, you will want to be able to read an academic paper, including the maths. So you will want to be able to not just understand what is meant by a p-value, but also be able to have thoughts like:
this paper used a normal distribution, but really a students t / logit / whatever distribution would have been better, I wonder how big a difference that makes?
they used a normal approximation for a binomial here—and I do/don’t think that seems like a reasonable approximation
The paper claims this looks like a fairly good fit—they could have used a chi squared test here; I wonder why they didn’t?
This sort of ability wouldn’t be useful if the existing body of research consistently used statistics well, but I don’t think that’s the case.
Final caveat: answering this question is hard because it’s so broad. I’m extrapolating from my own experience, but what’s useful for you might be different.
“Which is better from an individual perspective: stop driving and take the bus to work, or cut food waste from 35% to 0%?”
The drawdown project seems to suggest that cutting food waste is better, because it’s rated third on its list whereas mass transit is 37th. However I hesitate to suggest people follow the guidance of Drawdown. I contacted them a few years ago (before the big media splash) with some questions about their methodology and got no reply. So I don’t feel willing to endorse (or condemn) their work.
“I wonder where most of the waste happens?”
Most of the business-driven elements of the food supply chain are quite efficient, I’m told. I.e. each of manufacture, transport, and retail management. The waste comes almost entirely from customers buying things they don’t need and then throwing them away.
If so, the most likely downside, if any, is the risk of people consuming food after its use-by date.
My source for this claim is a pitch from a food-waste charity. I consider this to be a slightly better source than a person chosen at random, however I didn’t get the impression that the charity was rigorous about fact-checking its claims, so I can’t promise this is correct.