Not 100% what you asked, but I grew up around a lot of queer people who disdained marriage not because it was homophobic but because it was a bourgeois religious relic and form of social control. Several of them would end up getting married when they could, but that may be survivorship bias; most of my father's gay friends from that period died of AIDS long before gay marriage was on the radar screen.

Also Brad and Angelina did not quite make it in their pledge to wait until gay marriage was legalized, having got married less than a year before federal legalization. https://time.com/3208755/brad-pitt-angelina-jolie-gay-marriage/

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I went to grad school with a heterosexual couple that said they weren't going to get married until gay marriage was legalized. I'm 90% sure they did eventually get married.

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<quote>a lot of people really want kids, and having kids would make them happy</quote>

Doesn't this go against most studies on kids and happiness?

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"Right now we only eat about a third of our crops directly - the rest goes mostly to animals, usually requiring about 10x calories of grain to produce x calories of meat."

The so-called inefficiency of meat over plants in creating food for humans has been repeated for decades, and for decades it has been wrong and bad.

Calories are not all created equal, otherwise you could live quite well solely on about 200 grams of corn oil per day and never suffer any deficiencies.

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> moonshadow adds:

> Indeed, looking at other replies here - people are "too lazy" to have kids, "too immature" to have kids, have "excuses" not to have kids... the reality is that not having kids is a decision one is continuously called to justify and defend against attack in ways other life choices are not.


Comments like this confuse me. I'm 32. I'm single. I don't have any kids. Save the occasional comment made by my grandparents (comments I've been ignoring for a decade now), I cannot think of a single instance in my adult life where members of the general public have pressured me _in any way_ to have children. In fact, I'd make the stronger claim that, at least from my point of view, this is also true of all the other childless 30-somethings I know.

The only people I have ever encountered who have actually cared about this are 'far-right internet people'. But they are not representative of any mainstream perspective, and you can't generalize from them to any wider trends in society.

I don't understand how all of the rest of you are apparently "constantly called on to justify" your choices not to have kids. Who is doing this calling? Why is this a thing that I never encounter?

Just more evidence, in my mind, that my adult life experience is best explained by "the AIs have taken a particularized interest in fucking with me, for who knows why"

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"I think society should take a chill pill and people should have however many kids they want." Many upvotes.

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"I’m always surprised how willing people are to tear up the liberal contract of 'I don’t question your (non-externality-having) life choices, you don’t question mine', especially when they’re not guaranteed to be on the winning side, and would completely freak out if the other side tried to create stigma against them."

I certainly agree with your support for the Principle of Charity and the liberal contract. But I think the words "non-externality-having" are doing a lot of work here and might contain the crux of the disagreement between those eager to have children (and to encourage others to have them) and those hesitant. Well-raised children are, I would claim, a *massive* positive externality. They will contribute to the world both in material/economic terms and in social/emotional terms. Children require a large investment from their parents, but (if things go well) contribute back far more than they cost. They don't necessarily pay back their parents in sheer material terms (hopefully friendship/respect/emotional closeness counts for something!), but the net effect on the world is positive.

If one sees children as positive in this light, then the choice *not* to have them looks like a choice which does create negative externalities (or at minimum, negative relative to the alternative of having kids). There is a difficult question of setting the default or zero point here, granted. But this line of thinking undermines the claim that the choice to have kids or not doesn't involve externalities. If someone else's kid might become a doctor taking care of me and my kids in the future (or might pursue a career in any number of fields that improve people's lives), that's an externality.

Also, there may be some (spoken or unspoken) Kantian Universalizing going on. If *everyone* chose to have no kids, the human race would die out, which *most* people would consider a very bad outcome. Granted, I don't think people expect humanity to actually go extinct this way, but it still makes the no-kids choice look "self-defeating" on some level, putting aside the minority of thinkers who actually do support extinction.

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I was EXTREMELY triggered by the original post, lost a lot of sleep over it and had other mental health symptoms that are too personal to share publicly.

I understand that it was not your intent to shame childfree people with the original post but I think that a lot of people would benefit from a more explicit statement of that. There are some extremely large and powerful organizations, such as the Catholic Church, who literally spread the message that non-celibate childfrees deserve literal torture, literally forever. Climate Change activists do sometimes engage in counter-productive scrupulosity bait, but I have never seen them advocate LITERAL TORTURE, LITERALLY FOREVER. (Unless you count Pope Francis as a Climate Change activist, which he maybe kind of is? But a somewhat atypical one.)

I like children very much and if humans laid eggs I'd probably have a double-digit number of children. But after watching my mum have nine pregnancies, four miscarriages, one emergency ceasarean, one post-partum haemorrhage and multiple episodes of life-threateningly severe post-partum depression, I am not willing to go through that. Plus I honestly think it would be cruel to perpetuate my depression and anxiety genes. (I am not normally in favor of eugenics: I think it's fine to perpetuate genes for being intellectually disabled or blind or needing a wheelchair or even having a reduced lifespan, but depression is @#!$ing bad. My life was genuinely not worth living for a very long time, when it became worth living it needed a lot of very very lucky circumstances and even being rich does not mean future kids would get those very very lucky circumstances.)

I don't want to persuade anyone who wants kids not to have them. However, if you are on the fence because of climate change then maybe you should be on the fence for a different reason: your potentially-heritable anxiety and low mood. However, your own best judgement of whether your life is worth living is far more valuable than some stranger's blog comment.

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This post is a perfect example of feeding into a pet peeve of mine, which is the over-ethicization of just about anything and everything. Thank you for making the "liberal contract" explicit about not questioning one another's life choices, i.e maintaining a solid notion that there is a wide range of life options here and there, that what to do with one's life is very much an open-ended field, so we should think twice (or 2000+ times) before judging or questioning where someone chooses to put their energy, unless it's obviously antisocial or destructive.

The problem of course is that the obvious caveat ("unless the externalities are too big") is ripe for abuse. Anyone with an ideology to sell is going to push the point that everyone else's externalities are really huge. Put this together with an economy of virtue status-signalling, and you get full blown "culture wars" for the price of an onion peel.

This is especially funny when it comes to questions of procreation, because given a constant number of sentient beings, various approaches to metaethics seem to find relatively sane things to say... but bring in the fact that beings can be brought into the world, and those neat constructs either begin to give nonsense conclusions, or need to be hand-tweaked to match our intuitions.

Honestly at this point, I consider the entire field cursed and wasted, which is why I usually don't bother trying to argue ethics on the internet. But I respect this blog and its readership enough that I will still write a short meta-point on it :)

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"There's a pretty decent chance that global dimming killed like a million people."

This feels very much like hacking away at the leaves of evil while leaving the roots alone. It's not like the Ethiopian famine corresponded to a decreased output of surplus medical and food relief supplies due to global dimming. The global resources to feed all those people were abundant, and made available for the crisis.

My (incomplete/non-expert) understanding is that the governance was poor from end to end. If minor fluctuations in global climate might cause a million people to starve to death, we might take at least one point that climate skeptics love to point out seriously: there is always going to be climate variation. We shouldn't go full-alert because a tiny variation "killed like a million people" when we know that there are much more important underlying causal factors that put those million people's lives at risk of a subtle shift like global dimming. Because if it hadn't been global dimming it would have been something else, and sooner rather than later.

It's exactly this kind of minor fluctuation that tyrants have always pointed to as the 'real reason' their economic utopian scheme turned into a dystopia instead. Don't let the tyrants off the hook. We can talk about climate change without accidentally justifying mismanagement at the same time.

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Re Luis Pedro's take, I knew a het couple that intentionally married using the forms for same sex couples, at a time when this meant their marriage might be legally invalidated along with all the gay marriages taking place at the same time.

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"I’m always surprised how willing people are to tear up the liberal contract of “I don’t question your (non-externality-having) life choices, you don’t question mine”, especially when they’re not guaranteed to be on the winning side, and would completely freak out if the other side tried to create stigma against them."

I think on both sides there's widespread agreement that this is *not* non-externality-having, the disagreement is what form that externality takes

I would compare this to doing paid labor. Not everyone can or should be doing paid labor -- there are people who aren't equipped for it, or who do other stuff that's more valuable, or whose jobs make the world worse. And even if what you are doing is not "more valuable", you don't really owe anyone an explanation for why you're not working -- it's not really anyone's business unless that person is your spouse or something like that. There are some people who love their jobs and who take great meaning and pleasure from it, and would choose to work with no social or financial pressure to do so -- but that's not enough to keep the lights on, and similarly I don't think there's any reason to think that a norm of "the default should be not having kids, and the decision of to have kids needs to be deeply justified" leads to enough kids, at this time and place, to avoid some pretty big, bad effects. (Or even that it's the best decision for the people making it -- regretting not having kids when it's too late is very much a thing, and probably much more so than the other way around, especially in this kind of audience.) It's possible to go too far and make it too difficult for people to avoid having to do paid labor, but it's also possible to go too far in the other direction. We can have perspectives on this topic, and it's not equivalent to knocking on anyone's door and harassing them about why they're not working or haven't procreated.

(Also, people question each other's much more trivial life choices ALL THE TIME!)

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Agreed on Principle of Charity, and the idea that there are some real people scared of bringing children into the world, but I take issue with these "is humanity doomed" polls. You ask people questions like "is humanity doomed by global warming" a large number of people say yes. But then you ask people "what is the biggest problem facing America today" and only a few percent say anything environmental:


and this was true before coronavirus started being a major answer:


Likewise, and Matthew Yglesias harps on this a lot, people a willing to declare global warming a very important problem but then you ask if they're willing to pay an extra $0.25/gallon in gasoline taxes to solve it and the vast majority of people say no. It's internally illogical and rather maddening, since this really is the biggest problem facing the world except maybe AI risk. I'm inclined to say that peoples' answers to an open ended poll rather than a leading question is a better read into their heart of hearts, and what fears and considerations actually affect their behaviour.

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"Am I being one of those people?"

No, because the choice of whether to have kids is the MOST externality-having decision the average person makes in his or her lifetime.

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Thank you for your tireless efforts to be fair here, when you deal with incredibly contentious issues. I think the only real way to effectively influence others for good is to set a really strong example of the principles you hope others will adopt. I can clearly see your effect on me, and I strive to emulate your example.

I just wanted to point out that you mention 'top colleges' twice here. I don't know if you've encountered the line of thinking that says 'the concept of top colleges is a serious problem for american polarization - it would be better if wanted to go the best school where they grew up, rather than the best school in the country.' Ill share a bit of that here, as i think it's relevant.

I believe the existence of top colleges is a mechanism for rewarding people with a combination of 'high intelligence, low value placed on loyalty to your hometown'. It took me a while to 'pick up on' the idea that your career options are limited if you go to 'midwest liberal arts college that nobody outside of your hometown really knows about', so after undergrad I left my hometown for over a decade, decade to pursue academic (top 20 research university) and then career opportunities, and then came back so i could help care for my aging parents.

I've started to better understand why so may people voted for trump. Perhaps economic and cultural power lean left in part because there are natural divides in terms of people's natural 'moral foundations', and "move to away from your hometown in exchange for more money and better career opportunities" has a pretty clear valence attached to it.

If some people are much more concerned with 'fairness' and 'harm reduction', while others care more about 'group loyalty' and 'freedom', for example, then we should expect people who care less about loyalty to be more willing to move away from their family in exchange for bigger financial rewards. Maybe in the short term this is all fine, but over the long term i would expect it to lead to:

* economic and cultural power concentrating among people who have the lowest scores of loyalty + tradition (i.e. being most willing to move for economic opportunity)

* a growing sense among people who place a high value on loyalty and tradition that they are "under attack" from distance elites who use their combination of economic and cultural influence to attack traditions they see as stifling and irrelevant

My parents met at stanford, where people told them to their face they were awful for having multiple children. They relocated to Ohio, where my Dad's family has been located for ~200 years. They raised 9 of us, and 8 out of those 9 left home after college. The one sibling who stayed behind is more political conservative than the rest of us, and i don't think this is a coincidence.

I don't think global warming could end human civilization - But a violent civil war among americans, driven by the culture war? That's what i worry about more than anything else. Thanks for the C.S. Lewis quote, though. That's the mindset i should be in :)

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"and there will be several million people dead from disasters that we suspect (but will never be sure) that global warming made more likely or worsened."

And if we reduce global warming there will be several million people dead that we suspect (but will never be sure) would have lived if we hadn't.

To take the clearest case, greenhouse gas warming reduces extreme cold as well as extreme heat, as the IPCC mentions in the latest report. It doesn't, at least in the summary version, mention that it reduces extreme cold by more than extreme heat, for the same reason that (as it does mention) it warms the polar regions more than the equatorial regions, and it doesn't mention that extreme cold at present kills many more people than extreme heat. So two million people die from heat who would have lived and four million (both numbers invented) live who would have died from cold.

Very nearly any major change in a world with eight billion people in it means that, over a century, millions will die sooner than they otherwise would have and millions will die later than they otherwise would have. Neither you nor I knows whether the net effect of actions to slow climate change will be more or fewer people dying.

We do know that the largest action the U.S. has yet taken on the issue, the biofuels program, had no effect on climate since it doesn't reduce CO2 output and did reduce the supply and raise the price of maize, thus doing our bit to promote world hunger. I have seen no estimates of the result in excess mortality.

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The liberal principle is good for things that involve consenting adults, but here we're talking about bringing a new child into the world. Consider:

- If Alice has kids, she'll lock them in the basement and torture them.

- If Bob has kids, predictably, somebody else (not Bob) will lock them in the basement and torture them.

- If Charlie has kids, he (Charlie) will be locked up in the basement and tortured.

Clearly, neither Alice nor Bob should have kids. In Bob's case, the torture may not be his fault and he may even try to prevent it, but that doesn't license him to create kids in harm's way. Charlie's case is a bit more ambiguous, but since creating kids is easy and the pain further off, he may be irrationally shortsighted, especially if he thinks having kids (and then potentially being tortured) is normal. In none of these cases should society take a "chill pill" and leave their decision to have children unquestioned.

Given the prevalence of bad lives, this reasoning suggests moderate antinatalism, with a defeasable presumption against having children. This is further reinforced by how common it is to not give enough thought to creating and raising children. (Do you really want to take care of a crying baby? A toddler...? Etc for 18 years? Are you *sure*?)

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"I think the flaw here is that it takes a lot of time to act to stop climate change."

That is one of the reasons that adapting to climate change — diking against sea level rise, changing crop varieties as climate changes — makes more sense than trying to stop it. Raising the dikes protecting a coastal city by a few feet if it turns out that the IPCC underestimated SLR takes months or years, not centuries. A second reason is that adapting faces much less of a public good problem than preventing, since one farmer can do it for himself, one city for itself, where as reducing climate change is a public good problem at the global level. A third reason is that adapting lets us get the benefits — more usable land in the extreme north, more crop yield from CO2 fertilization, fewer deaths from cold — while reducing the costs.

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"My personal preference is to decide how much time/energy/money I want to spend on charity (I’ve settled on 10% of money; time and energy are harder to budget), and then spend the rest of it however I want."

My guess is that the time and energy you spent on the hobby of running SSC, spend now on ACX, does orders of magnitude more good for the world by promoting dialog and clear thinking than 10% of your income devoted to charity.

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I'll also give credit to the discussion about there being no risk that earth will become like Venus.

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"I agree that it’s true that time/energy spent raising children inevitably trades off against time/energy spent doing charity work."

Woah woah -- that's a can of worms.

Isn't caring for children ethically superior than spending time caring for people who aren't your children?

Don't ethnical systems usually preference your nearest? Your family, your neighbors, your children, and so on?

If your ethnics puts no penalty on abortions; don't you end up having to abort healthy fetuses in preference for unhealthy fetuses? Because caring for disabled children seems more like charity than caring for healthy children? I guess I'm saying that reasoning in this sort of way is insane.

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I agree that many people are sincerely motivated by principle when it comes to "it would be irresponsible to have children".

But like I said, the song was the same, it was just the tune was different back when I was a kid. Then it was "it would be irresponsible to have children" because the Earth was groaning under the burden of increasing population. Or "it would be irresponsible to have children" because of the threat of nuclear war, or the oil was going to run out.

But when I looked at who was saying "don't have children, it would be irresponsible to bring a new life into this dying, decaying, threat-ridden, over-burdened world", they weren't doing anything more to change their own lives, particularly in the 'consuming resources' sense. It was like listening to someone lecturing about how alcohol was terrible and a curse, all the while sipping from a glass of whiskey.

So I am reminded about what Chesterton said in regard to Prohibition, after coming back from visiting America in 1921:

"But if I am to deal with Prohibition, there is no doubt of the first thing to be said about it. The first thing to be said about it is that it does not exist. It is to some extent enforced among the poor; at any rate it was intended to be enforced among the poor; though even among them I fancy it is much evaded. It is certainly not enforced among the rich; and I doubt whether it was intended to be.

...But when some of the rich Americans gravely tell us that their drinking cannot be interfered with, because they are only using up their existing stocks of wine, we may well be disposed to smile. When I was there, at any rate, they were using them up very fast; and with no apparent fears about the supply. But if the Ku-Klux Klan had started suddenly shooting everybody they didn’t like in broad daylight, and had blandly explained that they were only using up the stocks of their ammunition, left over from the Civil War, it seems probable that there would at least have been a little curiosity about how much they had left. There might at least have been occasional inquiries about how long it was likely to go on. It is even conceivable that some steps might have been taken to stop it.

No steps are taken to stop the drinking of the rich, chiefly because the rich now make all the rules and therefore all the exceptions, but partly because nobody ever could feel the full moral seriousness of this particular rule. And the truth is, as I have indicated, that it was originally established as an exception and not as a rule."

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> Washington State proposed a carbon tax a few years ago, and it failed 56 to 44. Suppose that a bunch of pro-carbon-tax activists equal to 7% of the population moved in the next day. How would this change politics? Would the climate change activists propose something even more ambitious, so that chance of success is held constant? And is there a binary distribution here, such that “carbon tax” is going to offend some people and excite others no matter what the rate is, and so it’s hard to get something that is “like a carbon tax but appeals to 6% more voters”?

Washington actually had two carbon tax initiatives that failed. The first was a business Republican-friendly revenue neutral tax -- anything the tax generated would be rebated back out. This failed because what it gained in centrist support it lost on the left wing who didn't think it went far enough. The next one in response was a tax that would fund "climate justice," essentially a giant slush fund for lefty non profits, and it lost all the support from the center it would have needed to get over 50%.

So the answer to this question seems to be yes -- the farthest left wing will always want more than it can get away with, and adding more pro-climate voters will just tempt them to write an initiative that they fool themselves into thinking they can pass.

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Hey Scott - I saw the discourse was getting a bit out of hand, and I imagine it's hell to moderate a discussion that large. I threw together a rough draft of a "hey I gave you temp ban, please chill a bit" message that may be useful in reducing some of the cognitive overhead of putting people in timeout when a discussion blows up. That said, I don't know if it's possible to do something like have an automated message sent when a ban is issued.

Also, I'd be very curious to hear the general community's take on liberal short (3 day, 7 day, etc.) bans for norm enforcement.


Hi there! I want to start this message by offering you my sincere thanks for participating in the ACX community discussions. The community that has grown around this blog is incredibly important to me, and it only exists as long as people choose to actively contribute.

In that spirit, you've been given a temporary (1 week) ban.

I use the ban system as a way of enforcing a set of rules and norms that have been conducive to the development of a community that is intellectually generous, challenging, and curious. The temporary ban is used to give participants the opportunity to review these rules and norms before posting again, and maybe give them a little space from a discussion that is getting out of hand.

There are three obvious and unfortunate failings of this ban system.

The first is that I may issue a ban for a comment that was intended to be entirely innocuous. Please review the tone of your post - not as you intended it, but rather as a reader unfamiliar with your motives might interpret it - to avoid this in the future.

The second is that, with the growth of the community, I often do not have time to issue temporary bans to all commenters that break the rules. This means that you may be issued a temporary ban for a comment that is no worse than a comment that does not result in one. I am truly sorry for this shortcoming but also ask your understanding.

The third shortcoming is related to the second. Because I am trying to manage such a large community while also writing and maintaining a clinical practice, I do not have time to provide explanations of why you were banned, nor do I have time to handle appeals. I hope that the latter limitation is addressed by the relatively short duration of the ban.

If you are uncertain why you received this ban, please review the rules here (actually, please review them even if it is clear to you). In general, the rules aim to maintain a good vibe by avoiding personal attacks, limiting antagonistic (e.g. hostile or patronizing) tones, and encouraging insightful conversation.

If you are still uncertain why you were banned after reading the rules and comparing your comment against comments that did not result in bans, then this community may be a poor fit for your communication style or I may have made a mistake. If it's the latter you have my apologies. If your posts continue to violate the spirit of the rules linked above, I will eventually give you an indefinite ban. I do not give these lightly, but I will not sacrifice the standards of behavior that foster a community of good-faith discussion.

Thank you again for your participation. The addition of differing perspectives often introduces greater clarity to the exploration of a topic. It just needs to be done while maintaining the vibe.

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One aspect of having kids that wasn’t covered: many of the people who are concerned about climate change impacts of kids also tend to favor large social welfare programs.

But who will pay for all those programs 50 years from now if wealthy educated people don’t reproduce?

And if social welfare programs are collapsing due to a rapidly aging population, THAT’S the crisis that will get attention, and environmental concerns will get back-burnered.

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> Man, I wish I could write like this. Seems like a waste to blog when one could be quoting CS Lewis instead.

Actually Lewis is the closest stylistic match to rationalist-community approaches to reasoning and writing-- Scott's in particular-- out of all the generally-known writers I can think of. (G.K. Chesterton is also worth mentioning but rationalists are more directly conscious of him as an influence.) See also: the surprising influence that Scott et al have had on center-right-ish Christian public intellecutuals specifically (e.g. Ross Douthat, Alan Jacobs). There's a shared sensibility there regarding what kinds of arguments move people, in spite of significant object-level (and sometimes meta-level) disagreements.

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> First, the MVT assumes that both parties will end up as indistinguishable centrists, but this clearly hasn’t happened, probably because of the primary process.

Hasn't it? Not when it comes to rhetoric, but when it comes to policy, it seems to be a common complaint on both sides. Though I'm not sure why the MVT should affect policy more than rhetoric.

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"Seems like a waste to blog when one could be quoting CS Lewis instead."

Ain't that the truth.

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I lived in n. Idaho at one time and still keep in touch. The wonderful summer there is a good reason for living there. This past summer smoke from forest fires made summer a lot less wonderful for big chunks of time. That's a real loss in quality of life subset of reason for living but I doubt that it impacted the local "gdp" much. Maybe even raised it due to fire fighting crews coming in from elsewhere.

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> I agree - I don’t see this a lot in my everyday life, so it was pretty disappointing to see how

> many commenters here want to challenge other people’s life choices not to become parents.

> I’m always surprised how willing people are to tear up the liberal contract of “I don’t question

> your (non-externality-having) life choices, you don’t question mine”, especially when they’re

> not guaranteed to be on the winning side, and would completely freak out if the other side

> tried to create stigma against them.

We've already torn up that contract. The culture war is all about trying to be in a dominant position when the music stops.

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"The people refusing to have kids because of climate change are some of the most intelligent and ethical people around. This is my assessment from knowing some of them, plus my inference from all the articles about them which usually mentions how they went to top colleges."

Maybe. Scott lives, socially and geographically, in a blue tribe high IQ bubble. It's tempting to think that your sort of people are better than not your sort of people.

I have lived in a different bubble (socially — at present I am also in the Bay Area). Of the smartest people I have known I don't think any took (or for those still alive take) seriously the sort of climate catastrophism scare story that motivates someone to not have kids because of climate worries. I too am tempted to think highly of my sort of people.

People who choose not to have children for these reasons are selected for a number of characteristics:

1. Being sufficiently credulous, or conformist to their social surroundings, to accept an exaggerated view of the perils of climate change — exaggerated relative to what Scott believes, as he has just demonstrated, greatly exaggerated relative to what I believe.

2. Not very much wanting to have children. That could reflect risk aversion or a high discount rate, since the returns from having children are uncertain and the costs are greatest early. It could reflect having had an unhappy childhood, poor relations with their parents. It could reflect being lazy or selfish — children, especially small children, are a lot of work.

3. A willingness to do what they and those around them view as the responsible thing. That could, as Scott suggests, be due to being very ethical. It could also be due to being conformist.

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“ If we ever approached a point where refugees could actually cause techno-economic decline or civil war or whatever, we would have already built a giant unscaleable border wall. I don’t think our civilization should necessarily be proud of this…”

Oh, I dunno. Avoiding civil war is probably decent enough politics.

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An example of a straight couple not getting married for moral reasons: my aunt and uncle got a UK civil partnership recently after having been together but unmarried for 35 years. Civil partnerships were initially introduced in 2004 as a sort of "gay marriage in all but name" but they were only extended to straight couples in the last couple of years (depending in which part of the UK you're in).

It's not exactly what you describe, because their reasons weren't exactly "marriage is homophobic because it excludes gay couples", but they were certainly in the boat of "this thing would be advantageous for our lives but it goes against our principles so we're not doing it."

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"The only exception might be fairly extreme geo-engineering attempts that we’ll wish we didn’t have to experiment with. "

Freeman Dyson did the calculation, and we could stop an increase in CO2 emissions by embarking on a massive tree-planting program. Half of the CO2 that exists now gets cycled through trees on a yearly basis. That would give us enough time to do the CO2 mitigation. So once we decide that CO2 is really causing the warming, we can easily generating breathing room. Because who doesn't want more trees?

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I think it's also worth noting regarding the future voters argument and MVT that even if MVT is true and dems adjust rightwards to win elections sans the voters who weren't born because their parents were worried about the climate, this probably means that the dems are less supportive of climate polices than they otherwise would be so it still might be.

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It’s sad that the unique rewards of having children can’t be communicated in words... if they could, the notion of going child-free “because climate change” would probably not exist. Unfortunately anyone who tries to find language for the rewards of having children just comes off sounding trite. It was not convincing to me in my first 15ish years of adulthood. Now, having had a kid, I feel sadness that there’s no vocabulary to describe this to friends who are on the fence. Seems critical to get the message out, somehow, into low fertility W.E.I.R.D. societies where “your parents and God need you to have babies” is not compelling. (I have no good ideas for how to do this.)

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I don't disagree with the "liberal consensus", but it is not entirely true that fewer people having kids has no negative externalities.

As someone who for a while was the only one with kids in my social group, and the only one with kids in my extended family -- it means your kids have fewer friends among like-minded people, and less community for them and for you. And this reflects in psychological ways, not just in material ways (e.g. opportunity to trade babysitting or form a homeschooling pod).

Also, as people get less and less exposed to kids, they make the external world less friendly to kids and parents. I believe that parents should be responsible for the effects of their children's behavior in public, and most of the costs of their children's existence.

BUT in terms of how relaxed other people are around kids, how much trepidation they feel in handling kids, how easily annoyed they are, how accommodating vs resentful your coworkers are due to kids..... All of these things go into the "harder for parents" direction when you're the only parent around.

And again, this is the case, at least anecdotally - in my work experience, most young coworkers were not even close to kids, and th older employees had teenage or grown kids; none of my husband's coworkers don't have small children.

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"Does anyone else have an experience with a couple like that? If so, what happened?"

Yes, I did! I knew a straight activist couple in Dunedin New Zealand who abstained from marriage until gay marriage was legalized. At the time gay couples could get a 'Civil Union' but could not marry, so they got "civil union-ed" then had a real wedding after gay marriage was legalized in 2013. In my opinion, the Civil Union party was much more fun :)

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When old people look back on their lives, often, the most satisfying thing they've done is raise kids. It is puzzling unless you've raised kids yourself.

The days are long, but the years are short, raising kids. It is counter intuitive, but true in my experience.

I hope young people don't deprive themselves of this joy or overthink it. Why do smart people often overthink things?

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I am extremely skeptical about the probability of continuing economic growth

Given how correlated access to energy is to GDP, and how much of our energy comes from fossil fuels, it's hard for me to imagine never-ending growth in a world where, by choice or because of limited supply, we would extract less and less of them.


(This might not be the best graph, because it's only about access to electricity, but I can probably find a better one)


So what we would need is either decoupling growth from energy production (which seems implausible to me because pretty much every new technology requires more energy, not less) or decoupling growth from energy production, which I don't see happening

Of course, renewables are on the rise, but:

- Because they are very distributed, their construction necessitates huge quantities of materials such as steel and aluminium, which we don't really know how to produce without fossil fuels

- They can't be used exclusively without extensive grid storage, which is another tough technological nut to crack

And nuclear could help us a great deal, but

- Nuclear plants are huge, long-term investments, so they're difficult to finance privately, and

- People are afraid of them, so it's difficult for democratic governments to fund them

Sure, several small modular reactors technologies seem very promising, but I'm just not convinced that this tech will scale fast enough around the world (especially in poor countries)

Also, energy is just part of the opportunities that fossil fuels have given us (materials, chemicals, etc)

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Are there libertarians who don't get married because they believe the state shouldn't be involved in marriage at all?

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"We talk about the Principle of Charity here a lot, and most of you are willing to grant it to right-wingers."

Maybe I'm just an uncharitable person by the standards of this community (the people on the SSC Discord certainly thought so), but my conclusions are the polar opposite of yours: Rather than believe these sorts of claims from both right-wingers and left-wingers, I'm extremely skeptical of both.

I think most people who oppose abortion are primarily motivated by a desire to control people's sexuality, as evidenced by the fact that they tend to oppose other forms of untraditional sexual behavior, even when those would serve to reduce abortions (e.g. homosexuality, contraception). I don't think it's rooted in misogyny per se, but rather in an opposition to all forms of sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage (which also happens to disproportionately affect women). I'm not saying they're *lying* when they say that abortion is murder in their eyes, but I don't think they *truly* believe it's equivalent to murdering a human being who's already been born. For instance, I'm fairly sure that the vast majority of them would choose to save a single toddler over an arbitrarily large number of fertilized eggs. And aside from the absolute most extreme anti-abortion activists, they don't *really* act like you'd expect people to act if they lived in a country where babies were being murdered en masse. They might make that claim in their rhetoric, they might even think that in their surface-level thoughts, but their behavior is not consistent with that belief. (There are a few exceptions, of course, but those are generally the people who tend to murder abortion doctors or support those who do.)

Likewise, I don't really believe leftists who claim that they're not having children because of climate change. Again, it's not exactly that I think they're lying. It's more that, even if scientists invented a source of 100% clean renewable energy and ended the climate crisis tomorrow, the overwhelming majority of those people would still choose not to have children. Just like the liberals who claimed they weren't getting married because it wasn't an option for gay couples still didn't get married even after gay marriage became legal. Just like the conservatives who claim to oppose premarital sex because it leads to abortions would still oppose it even if we developed 100% effective and universally-available contraception and reduced the number of abortions to zero. These people have a myriad of reasons for not wanting children, they simply use climate change as an excuse that also gives them ammunition against their Outgroup. And just like most anti-abortionists don't truly behave as though abortion is the exact equivalent of felony homicide, most climate activists don't truly behave as though the literal extinction of humanity or end of human civilization is just around the corner. (Again, there are a few exceptions, and those tend to be the sorts of people who think Kaczynski was right.)

It's not lying. But it's more than just a lack of conviction. It's a lack of *belief*, or at least belief that goes beyond the surface level and actually becomes part of a person's intuitive and intellectual framework. I remember someone on the SSC forums once mentioned that a typical conservative Christian might accept her creationist pastor's claim that God created the Earth six thousand years ago, and likewise accept a park ranger's claim that rock formations are hundreds of millions of years old, without bothering to think about the contradiction much. Likewise, I think a typical progressive might accept some vocal activist's claim that humanity will die out within the century, and likewise accept that some work of speculative fiction set five hundred years in the future is an accurate depiction of what the world will probably be like, without bothering to think about the contradiction much.

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Yeah, I thought it was incredibly rude to suggest people are just using climate change as an excuse, and I'm glad that you pushed back.

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I don't think you should be surprised, or probably even annoyed, that some of your commenters were a little brisk in their defense of child-bearing. You opened the door. I mean, you were careful to qualify and hedge at many points, so I have no specific criticism of any specific words -- but overall, the tone of the post was "I've thought about this deeply, and the critique that having kids is a selfish Gaia-raping immoral act is wrong, despise some not facially absurd concerns that it might be, and therefore I approve of your decision to do so."

Who is going to react to that well? I mean, try it with a slightly different focus: "I've thought about it a lot, and decided that those of you who are gay are not in fact perverted child-molesters, despise some not facially absurd concerns in certain quarters that you might be -- I emphasize that in my opinion those people are badly mis-informed -- and therefore I approve of your lifestyle."

I would guess that you would not touch that with an infinity-foot pole, and you would not be the slightest bit surprised if, were anyone to do so, that gay people would react with considerable hostility, as in "who the f*** do you think you are that I *need* your approval?"

You can't really expect to make a post in which you imply judgment of peoples' decisions on such an intimate subject, with respect to concerns which plenty of people -- you already know this -- believe are wildly overblown -- and *not* expect some hostile responses. No matter how much hedging you do in the details.

That doesn't of course mean the post shouldn't have been made, or made another way -- I'm not saying *that* at all. I'm just saying it seems unreasonable to then be surprised, or even disappointed, that it turned out some people were annoyed who felt you were judging them publically -- even if you eventually came down on their side. Some people were absolutely bound to react that way, and that was 100% forseeable.

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I know one person who chose to reproduce for state-of-the-world reasons. The fall of the Berlin wall gave her enough hope that she had her first and only child.

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>I’m always surprised how willing people are to tear up the liberal contract of “I don’t question your (non-externality-having) life choices, you don’t question mine”, especially when they’re not guaranteed to be on the winning side, and would completely freak out if the other side tried to create stigma against them.

Having lived for three decades in the US, I have seen no evidence of such a liberal contract actually being enforced at any point in that time.

That may be due to your parenthetical escape hatch, since it is trivial to argue that any behavior has some effect positive or negative on third parties. That was the logic of Wickard v. Filburn after all; to grow crops on your own property for personal consumption is to participate in interstate commerce. Really though, I just don't see any evidence that anyone beyond a handful of principled yet powerless libertarians ever took the idea of "live and let live" seriously.

So I'm not particularly worried about rightists violating this supposed principle which leftists, centrists, etc. likewise routinely violate.

>Refugees seem to be something we take zero chances with, something where we’re heavily biased towards rejecting them at the slightest sign that maybe someone thinks something might possibly be affecting vague unmeasurable qualities.

Can we trade realities? Between this and the liberal contract, I really would prefer to live in your world than mine.

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Well, as I pointed out in the same thread, I don't disagree that "refusing to have kids because of climate change are some of the most intelligent and ethical people around."

Certainly higher IQ and more conscientious than average, though also probably more conformist - prone to adopting whichever irrational, cult-like beliefs happen to predominate in given society. And yes, as it happens in this scenario, literally maladaptive (at least from the POV of reproductive fitness). Further irony being that the effects of AGW are ambiguous - in fact, quite possibly outright positive, in the case of the IPCC's likeliest mid-range 2-3C scenario - and that in any case the problem can be solved for very cheap (relative to carbon taxes, renewables, etc.) with geoengineering should it really, really become necessary.

I'll go further and say that if there's a specific "future castastrophe" related reason to avoid children (and perhaps put a bullet in your head ASAP just to be on the safe side) it's this: https://qntm.org/mmacevedo

The intersection of pervasive brain scanning techs + cheap mind emulation + human sadism --> Daemon Worlds of Warhammer 40K made real is a genuinely frightening prospect. I would go so far as to say that anti-natalism borne of these considerations and related ones like peeved basilisks is vastly *less* irrational than from AGW (note - it is still irrational, given how speculative and theoretical it is, just much less so). Hilariously, though, these at least minimally plausible concerns are the exclusive preserve of a few Internet eccentrics who've encountered Hanson and Egan, whereas AGW-related anti-natalism is a significant social trend.

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Oh, ugh, the WA carbon tax debacle... *wry grin* For people who may go TLDR, this Vox piece is a decent description of what happened in 2016 (it's a bit biased - actually, the initiative proposer has outright said that the author was dishonest - but it's easy to read between the lines):


And for anyone who wants a summary and some links, and who doesn't mind a bit of my frustration leaking out...

In 2016 (technically, several years before, given the length of the initiative process), a group headed by economist Yoram Bauman proposed initiative 732, a simple, revenue-neutral carbon tax that slowly ramped up over time, and was coupled with progressive tax reductions to make the initiative overall revenue-neutral. The group, Carbon WA, figured that being revenue-neutral and cutting other taxes would get support from the right, and that helping the environment would get support from the left. But the organizers found out that there was a left-wing group, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, that had been assembling a large coalition in favor of a nebulous future proposal, by promising specific perks and a voice in whatever eventually resulted. To be diplomatic, Bauman is not the most diplomatic person around, and communication between the two groups soured. Large parts of the left opposed the initiative, and it ultimately failed. Meanwhile, the Alliance still hadn't gotten anything together.










Then in 2017, Governor Inslee and some Democratic legislators tried to pass a carbon tax in SB 6203, but it never made it out of committee. I'm not sure what the problem was there. There's speculation about too many carve-outs for interest groups, but my cynical guess is that once legislators heard that the Alliance had finally put together the upcoming Initiative 1631, they didn't want to compete against it, having seen what happened last time. (Even though they added a provision saying that if the initiative passed, the bill would be void.)





Then in 2018, the Alliance brought forth Initiative 1631. This time they called it a "carbon fee", but I don't know whether that actually changed anything. (In WA, our right wing tends to be less conservative and more libertarian, and even setting aside all the people intelligent enough to realize that it was just a rebranded tax, I have a suspicion that the word "fee" might get a bad reaction in and of itself.) More of the left was on board with it, but not enough, and it had much more right-wing opposition, so it failed too.






Now in 2021 we've got 2 more proposals.

SB 5126 (the "Washington Climate Commitment Act") has passed the Senate, but there's still some wrangling going on, so it might not go into effect. As a compromise, the bill was conditional on a gas tax increase, but the governor line-item vetoed that condition, but a court invalidated the veto, and the WA state supreme court is pondering. Also, the governor vetoed a line requiring tribal consent for some stuff, which has seriously annoyed our tribes (From a Quinault leader: "After using and exploiting Tribal Nation's political capital to pass his climate bill, Jay Inslee made the cowardly decision on the day of the bill's signing to ambush Tribal leaders by suddenly vetoing all Tribal consultation requirements and all protections for Native American sacred sites and burial grounds that his office and the State Legislature had negotiated as a condition of the bill's passage. Jay Inslee will be mercilessly judged by history long after Indigenous Peoples triumph over his petty veto and continue to lead the world’s fight against climate change. The only thing I will ever agree with Donald Trump about is that Jay Inslee is a snake"), so it's not a simple partisan thing. Overall, the bill is a cap-and-trade approach (rebranded as "cap-and-invest") with a bunch of carve-outs for special interest groups, and a requirement that a significant chunk of the revenue be more-or-less directed by a governor-appointed committee. My rough guess is that it's one of those "pass it now, figure out what it means later" deals, where politicians run up against a deadline and find a way to postpone the rest of their wrangling until after the deadline.












And on the other hand, there's SB 5373 ("Washington STRONG"), which is another carbon tax bill. It hasn't been voted on yet, and might be dead in the water. It seems to have fewer carve-outs and special exceptions (as one would expect from a carbon tax), but the revenue is heavily ear-marked for pet causes. Plus, there's this strange scheme where it seems like the legislature gets to issue bonds based on future expected revenue from this specific tax, and then revenue from the tax is first devoted to paying down the bonds. I don't understand this, and I suspect it's a fancy way to get around some form of borrowing limit, or take advantage of "green bond" tax status, but I really have no idea.






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It feels pretty overconfident to say that drought is not increasing globally (also a little strange to talk only about the fourth and fifth IPCC reports when they've recently released the sixth). You can see which regions are likely to have increased drought in the summary of the sixth report (p13) - drought is increasing overall, and doesn't seem to be decreasing anywhere (p35). My guess is that much of that comment was cherry-picked.

Thanks for writing this article Scott, this is certainly an issue that a lot of my friends are going through and it's good to hear your thoughts.

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> I think society should take a chill pill and people should have however many kids they want.

Would be nice but has it ever happened? "Society" (mostly one's peer circle, relatives and random busybodies, for non-famous people) always tries to prescribe something, whether is it what to wear, how many kids to have, what car to drive or stuff like that. There's no sign it's going to stop anytime soon.

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"Reagan won the 1984 election by 525 to 13 (and AFAICT MVT should be aiming at the median electoral vote in an electoral system)."

i think the MVT is better understood as targeting not the median EC vote, but the *median voter in the state that casts the median EC vote* (that is, the median voter of the tipping point state). Mondale got only 40% in Michigan, which is terrible, but is hardly the 2% outcome that would repudiate the MVT.

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In light of the current energy crunch I'd like to plug the preferability of a carbon tax to things like Germany's top down politically directed switch to wind and solar. A properly assessed carbon tax would not have had the "diving headfirst into a half full green energy pool" effect that we are witnessing with various attempts to subsidize green energy and block fossils but rather incrementally affect the total energy system in an efficient way. Climate economists estimate a global carbon tax to be twice as effective as policies that focus on hard caps and short term goals in the way the Paris treaty was designed

On the "high concern" side I think carbon taxes at this stage are likely to seem like too little. In fact the main effect comes as the century progresses, the tax rises, and technology meets the economic effect of the tax. Short term it appears that direct investment into transformative technology rather than subsidies are a better "do something big now" type of policy. I'd like to see a neutral market designed pay out green tech according to their actual use and effect in the economy as well as more typical top down grants that may be prone to funding catchy ideas rather than practical ones

On the "skeptical" side I think it is time to adopt carbon taxes as well as direct innovation investment. Green policies are eventually going to happen and if we don't get ahead of them with a carbon tax they will cost double. I know a wrinkle is that carbon taxes have proven to be not sustainably revenue neutral as in British Columbia. However I would say I have the answer to that: pass a carbon tax with the stipulation that a neutral agency evaluates it yearly for neutrality and if it fails it is subjected to a vote requiring a 2/3rds majority to keep it. If the tax is voted down it is still retained but suspended for a year to prevent a non-neutral replacement. Rather than fight carbon taxes, fight for a revenue neutral carbon tax - be the guy who is doing the smart and popular thing. It doesn't really matter how skeptical you are - at the level of carbon tax I've heard proposed by climate economists it's reasonable ignoring any social cost of carbon and only considering air pollution costs to the economy and society

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For those of you who are interested in other perspectives about Climate Change and why we should not be hysterical, I would like to recommend the following books. Each of the authors is well informed in the premises, not of them disputes that the Climate is changing or that change is caused by human activities, but each of the argues that problems can be solved by strategies that will do far less damage than shutting down industrial civilization, and which could be more helpful to the billions of really poor people all over the world.

"Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, and Why It Matters" by Steven E. Koonin April 27, 2021


Koonin is a former Obama administration official and an academic physicist.

"False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet by Bjorn Lomborg July 14, 2020


Lombirg is a Danish economist who focuses on using resources to aleviate poverty and sufffering in the third world.

"Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All" by Michael Shellenberger June 30, 2020


Shellenberger is an environmental activist and journalist.

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I'm not sure that "I'm not going to have children because I am guessing that the world will be worse" is rational. The world could *always* be worse in ways you could not anticipate or in anticipated events whose timing we cannot predict. E.g. meteorite strike. E.g. accidental nuclear bomb release. E.g. Yellowstone volcano eruption. E.g. Tsunami hitting NYC because a large part of Africa falls into the sea.

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"I’m always surprised how willing people are to tear up the liberal contract of 'I don’t question your (non-externality-having) life choices, you don’t question mine'"

would have worked better without the parenthetical. I know what you're getting at, and on "technically correct is the best kind of correct" grounds, your version is better. But in terms of communicating in colloquial English with non-rationalists, you've just given every wannabe busybody license to question everybody else's life choices - all they have to do is show the bare existence of some externality, and they "win". They will feel they have permission to ignore you, or even cite you as supporting their position, and they will. And people on both sides of every debate have gotten really good at this.

The vast majority of externalities are small enough to be overwhelmed by the direct effects on the participants. The majority of externalities where that isn't the case, are so obvious that they're already baked into the debate, accepted by both sides, and if you omit them and someone else brings them up are trivially dismissed with "well obviously we didn't mean *that*".

If you omit the externality clause, you'll still be right >95% of the time. If you want to do better, you'll want to break out the externality clause, give it a sentence of its own, and expand it to state that the externality needs to be one of the unusually large ones, and that the burden of proof is on the person claiming the externality. Otherwise, instead of persuading anyone of the value of the liberal contract, you've merely sent them on a trivial hunt for the token externality they need to defect.

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"The people refusing to have kids because of climate change are some of the most intelligent and ethical people around. "

Or, that is what they want you to think. I think they are typical of their generation. High on self esteem. Ignorant of history, philosophy, religion, and the ways of the world. Their "ethics" is all sentiment and solipsism. They have neither the tools nor the practice of reasoning through ethical issues and understanding their dimensions. Nor, of reaching conclusions about those issues and being able to hold considered judgements that they can articulate to others.

"This is my assessment from knowing some of them, plus my inference from all the articles about them which usually mentions how they went to top colleges."

ROTFLMAO. Really? Getting into the top colleges means only that your parents are rich, your high school is one of the magic circle, and that you play a sport that is only played by rich people at fancy private schools like lacrosse or rowing. Granted, they are not complete dummies, but they are the ordinarily bright children of the upper classes (IQs >1 & <3 σ) . The truly brilliant, do not thrive in American high schools. They are bored witless by the pablum feed to the students, won't play the game of being good team members, and won't get the administration backing for the college admissions game.

"And by definition, they’re people who really care about helping others and are willing to make major sacrifices to do so."

Don't make me gag. They care about their status in their in group and wouldn't dream of sacrificing any of that. They will join the peace corps and have interesting adventures overseas, but they will always have mummy & daddy to fall back on. There are St. Francises among them. A big sacrifice will be riding a $3,00 bicycle instead of driving a car.

We won't miss them or their genes when they are gone. Childless, i hope.

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CS Lewis was one of the greats.

I guess I didn't give the "not having kids 'cause climate change" people much credit, having never met one or heard of them. Maybe they are a thing.

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"Elon Musk has seven kids, and he’s no slacker."

True, but for all we know he's a terrible father. The only thing I know about his parenting is that he christened his last child with a gimmick. Considering how much time he seems to spend on work, it's hard for me to imagine he has much time left over for raising kids.

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"I’m always surprised how willing people are to tear up the liberal contract of “I don’t question your (non-externality-having) life choices, you don’t question mine”, especially when they’re not guaranteed to be on the winning side, and would completely freak out if the other side tried to create stigma against them."

I want to query this a bit more.

So I was having a conversation the other day with some people who were saying they never want to have children, and I was like "oh really, why?" and got quite a big reaction accusing me of sticking my nose into their business. But I didn't get it. Because we'd been talking about them wanting to do academia rather than go into industry and I'd asked "why?"; living in the city rather than the country "oh really, that's interesting, why?"; and I dunno -- outside of this conversation I feel you can generally ask people in this neutral way about things, but asking why they weren't having children was offensive.

I wondered if they thought I was dog whistling "you're wrong, how dare you?"; but even so.

I mean, this liberal contract you're talking about is alien to me? Unless "question" is a euphemism for "be judgmental and intolerant to your face about"? But were people really doing that in the comments last time? if not, and you really do just mean "question" or "discuss" then -- c'mon, you can't have thought it was obviously bad behaviour when you wrote the original blog post questioning people's behaviour? Or maybe questioning the behaviour of a cohort is different to questioning individuals?

I thought questioning people about their ideas is completely normal for this blog. And the difference is in the sensitivity around this particular issue, because it is so important and so irreversible and so life determining.

In terms of parental pressure, parents I know are actually more sensitive around this than they are around, say, piercings, tattoos, haircuts, dressing well, choice of partners, and so on.

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I suppose a key factor that hasn't been fully discussed is how much instability in poorer countries can grow without it spilling over to richer countries. Because rich countries are not necessarily all that well insulated from the rest of the world... I remember seeing some arguments that the original trigger for the mess in Syria was due to agricultural issues caused by climate variations. What if these sorts of conflicts become an order of a few times more likely - do we have an idea of how much of that would be possible without destabilising rich countries too?

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Even if you only consider the water use of alfalfa, it is a mistake to say that it takes a lot of water. It is flexible in its water use, the number of harvests per year easily changed. Since the supply of water in California changes a lot from year to year, we need something about the consumption to change, too. Alfalfa is a great choice for making use of the excess water in the wet years. I'm not sure that's how it's actually used, though.

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<i>The people refusing to have kids because of climate change are some of the most intelligent and ethical people around. This is my assessment from knowing some of them, plus my inference from all the articles about them which usually mentions how they went to top colleges. And by definition, they’re people who really care about helping others and are willing to make major sacrifices to do so. These are exactly the sort of people whose genes I want in the next generation. </i>

Ok, so these are the people who 1) went to top colleges 2) care a lot about helping others - but the others in this case are pretty abstract people who do not exist yet and will presumably suffer terribly in 2100 3) rely on most hysterical media rather than e.g. on IPCC for answers to existential questions. Your interpetation is that these people are intelligent and ethical. Two other possible interpetations are that A) we need to review or prior on the ability of top colleges or, at least, certain programs at top colleges to teach basic critical thinking and working with simple sources or that B) these people in question are so dumb that they are unable of critical thinking or reading even after graduating from a top college.

By the way, note a peculiar king of empathy that these people have - they are driven by empathy towards abstract future people and somehow rather less empathy towards actual living people, so they decide against having children out of empathy towards yet non-existant denizens of 2100 who are expected by IPCC to suffer from GDP per capita of 3.9x current US levels rather than 4x projected without the warming. The plight of e.g. current real children in Haiti (GDP per capita 0.01x US) does not inspire them as much. People from top colleges driven by this kind of future-oriented empathy were quite prominent historically in many countries. These are the kind of people who led Khmer Rouge, or Chinese Cultural Revolution, or Russian Revolution in 1920s. I do not know about the role of genes here, but I doubt you will really enjoy life in a society run by this kind of people.

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Thought on the Median Voter Theorem: might recent trends be simply a generalisation of the MVT where politicians are pitching not to individual voters but to "blocks" of aggregated voters who will tend to vote similarly?

In my head I'm specifically thinking of some old decision theory work (https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/089533004773563458) where they try to explain the apparent paradox of why people don't "defect" more in elections by having people vote in such "blocks". The basic idea seems to fit well with this intuition that it's best to galvanise particular key groups than to be acceptable to the median voter, but presumably the politicians pulling this off will still need to aim for some generalised median voter in these blocks. (Although I suppose in 2-party races there will be more slack to deviate from this new median than in the classic MVT.)

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There are too many people, that’s why I am all for not having children. I contribute to Population Connection, formerly ZPG. Current growth is not sustainable, imho.

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Something worth addressing is that most of the expected value of mitigating climate change is in the right tail of outcomes, not the median. Somewhere way out there on the right tail where the boreal forests burn off, the permafrost fills with methane ponds, and temperatures go up 6C, is a end-permian-extinction-like event that kills 95% of life on earth. Reducing the probability of such an event, and every bit of marginal probability on the disastrous outcomes in between, is worth a lot more than preventing small amounts of sea level rise and optimal growing areas shifting north.

We know such events are common in geologic history under conditions similar to the ones we are creating, and even if your faith in our ability to model climate is low (or especially if) your priors should come from that.

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> First, the MVT [Median Voter Theory] assumes that both parties will end up as indistinguishable centrists, but this clearly hasn’t happened, probably because of the primary process. Probably it’s trivial to extend MVT into a world where this happens, but it’s a trivial thing I haven’t done and am not completely sure about.

I think MVT is missing a concept that moving to the center can cause you to lose voters from the your more extreme edge. My understanding of MVT is that it assumes this doesn't happen. I think acknowledging this may be enough to prevent the two parties from becoming indistinguishably centrist. If you move too far center, you start losing your fringe.

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Regarding Nordhaus, I read a pretty hefty critic a while back

https://www.patreon.com/posts/economic-of-ipcc-46104505 which highlighted some big problems with his methodology. It seems like Nordhaus systematically underestimated which sectors of the economy will be affected and takes a very liberal approach when it comes to the effect and likelihood of tipping points. For example, "Using Nordhaus's sanguine prediction of a mere 7.9% reduction in global income from a 6°C increase (Nordhaus, 2018b, p. 345) as a reference point, three of the most obvious threats of a 6°C warmer world are the impact of these temperatures on human physiology, on the survival of other animals, and on the structure of the Earth's atmospheric circulation systems."

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"Maybe kids are such a big choice that it’s inevitable that some of the cost would bleed into your other projects, and I do think that’s a risk, but I also know cases where they don’t. Elon Musk has seven kids, and he’s no slacker."

My theory/experience is that the first kid consumes 90% of your free time, and the second kid consumes 90% of your remaining free time (additional children just cannibalize the time spent on the first two because you have nothing left to give). Maintaining 10% of your life for charity or anything else is incredibly difficult once you have children (in the early years, at least).

Having money, especially billions of dollars, can go a long way toward freeing up that time (and a lot of other time spent doing life logistics), so Musk is definitely an outlier. A partner/relative who doesn't work is similarly effective.

I find children to be all-consuming, though that may relate to how I prioritize my time. I guess I *could* spend 10% of my time on charity at the expense of my children and they wouldn't be taken away from me or anything. So it might be more accurate to say that children introduce a high priority item to one's life that would be happy to consume all of your time, making it difficult to prioritize charity (or friendships, or personal time, etc.) given cultural norms and biology that say that nothing is more important than taking care of them.

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I think people who can choose whether or not to have children usually base their decision on their level of optimism about the future. Early Christians avoided having children because they felt that this world was doomed and that they should focus on the next. People in the Soviet Union avoided having children in its later years because they didn't feel optimistic about the country their children would live in. The US birth rate plummeted during the Great Depression when the world felt like it was falling apart in the US and overseas, but it soared after World War II when it appeared that there was a bright future ahead.

Global climate change is one reason to be pessimistic about the future. No one seems to be willing to make the big changes necessary to mitigate it, and it seems that even the changes necessary for surviving it will be crisis based and minimal. If we had just passed some major landmark, like moving to 75% renewable energy and carbon dioxide levels had stopped rising, people would be more optimistic. We might even see a baby boom as we did after World War II.

Some people will make the choice solely based on the prospects for their children. If you are in a position where you are confident that you can buy your children's way out of the impact of global warming, you will ignore the issue. Others will worry that their children might not be able to buy their way out or might be concerned about the societal cost of a world where most people will suffer from global warming even if their children might have a good chance of avoiding its effects.

Of course, a lot of people just don't want to have children and a lot of people refuse to believe them. Maybe they just say "global warming" just to get those people to shut up.

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>it’s hard to get something that is “like a carbon tax but appeals to 6% more voters”?

How about stealing an idea from the behavioral economists' "save more later" approach to increasing 401k contributions: pass a single bill that pre-commits us to gradually phasing in a carbon tax over the next 20 years.

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> “I don’t question your (non-externality-having) life choices, you don’t question mine”

Although parenthood and non-parenthood both have significant externalities. In the first two decades, non-parents have time and can build wealth which parents spend on their children. A further few decades later, the childless will need the same amount of elder care as any other old person, but will have produced less future labor for its provision. There is also the issue of how children change the communities and culture they are in: e.g. property tax rates to pay for schools.

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A heterosexual couple waiting for all kinds marriages to be legalized before marrying is like saying tha I wont eat until everyone in my city/country/world has food to eat. It's stupid.

If that's true, I challenge those people to make this vow not to eat until the world is fed! No one will do that since it's effect is immediate, while you can get away with other kinds of statements.

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Emissions are already reducing in the developed world. If you really oppose climate change, you should be advocating strikes against coal power plants and car factories in China and India where nearly all of the world's emissions growth will come from as well as all of their emissions. This belief that the key to stopping climate change is somehow in the West is an absurd proposition.

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"Preventing global warming will never seem cost-effective because the global economy just doesn’t place a very high value on the lives of Ethiopian subsistence farmers. But we can choose place a high value on their lives, and I think if we do that then preventing global warming seems worth it in expectation."

What is instead we spent that money on pulling Ethiopia out of poverty? One important step in this process would be improving their energy infrastructure - I.e. increasing their fossil fuel use. But climate activists obviously oppose this. IMO they are effectively trying to kill millions in the third world by keeping them pre industrial.

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"Broadly agree" with climate skeptic talking points from 10 years ago? Try something more recent: https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes/


From the 2021 Report:

● Extreme events: The AR5 assessed that human influence had been detected in changes in some

climate extremes. A dedicated chapter in the AR6 (Chapter 11) concludes that it is now an established fact that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions have led to an increased frequency and/or intensity of some weather and climate extremes since 1850, in particular for temperature extremes. Evidence of observed changes and attribution to human influence has strengthened for several types of extremes since AR5, in particular for extreme precipitation, droughts, tropical cyclones and compound extremes (including fire weather). (TS.1.2, TS.2.1)

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I knew only one heterosexual couple who agreed not to get married until gay marriage was legal. They lived together as unmarried partners for several years. In 2008, Massachusetts passed a law allowing out-of-state gay couples to go there and get married. This couple regarded that as satisfying the condition, given that any gay couple in the US could then go to Mass. and get married legally. They began planning their wedding immediately and were married in 2009.

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It's somewhat frustrating when you or members of your readership brag about valuing the principle of charity and good faith discussion, when my experience seems to point to exactly the opposite.

For example, you seem to be consistently unwilling to extend even the slightest bit of charity or good faith towards styles of communication that are less characteristic of agreeableness than you prefer. Aside from creating a political bias (because agreeableness influences people's political dispositions to a great extent), it is a very effective way of suppressing participation from people who are frustrated due to being marginalised by the ideology (ordoliberalism) that ACX is largely associated with.

My impression is that it is not so much that members of this community tend to be highly charitable, but that they tend to profess to value charity and spend a lot of time signalling charity and good faith, and that this signalling is convincing enough - provided you're not actually on the receiving end of frequent bad faith from members of this community - to actually convince people in it.

I think it has to do with mistake theory. My impression is that mistake theorists often regard themselves as paragons of good faith by the very fact of being mistake theorists, even though mistake theory - as it is applied in practice rather than in theory - tends to just lead to dismissing the outgroup as being stupid. For an example of how this plays out when other people do it, consider the concept of "false consciousness" in Marxist class analysis. Mistake theory tends to be rather akin to a kind of Protestant division of the world into people who believe in the one true faith and are advancing the causes of righteousness and piety versus all the people who are being misled by the devil (or by the mindkiller of politics, which is basically just another phrase meaning "false consciousness").

On this note, let us recall how many commenters on the mistake vs conflict theory post were going "omg yes the conflict theorists are so stupid and I hate them". I find this to be pretty characteristic of the bad faith I see in this community.

And so, I see this self-congratulatory discussion about how charitable ACX is, and all this talk about how much you all value charity and good faith, but to me that indicates vanity more than anything else, and having been in a lot of conversations with members of this community where I have decidedly not been met with good faith, I'm left with this frustration that I want to express, but I know that if the tone of my comment were too resentful, it would no doubt be interpreted as unkind and unnecessary, and I would be banned. According to you, I suspect the reason would be because my behaviour is inconducive to niceness, community, and civilization, but according to me, the reason would be that I'm not high enough in agreeableness to be welcome here.

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Regarding your time...don't.

For the same reason that my legal practice textbook tells me not to draft my own letters. Now, they are to some extent mistaken because I type faster than I could dictate. But the principle is sound - you need to do the things that only you can do. Anything other people can do, you should try to get other people to do. It's cheaper for the client.

In this case, if you can make 500 bucks doing something for an hour then donate that, or spend an hour doing something that someone else could do if paid ten dollars, you should do the first thing.

Are you better off donating an hour of your time to a soup kitchen, or giving them an hour's wages? In most cases, I'd say an hour's wages.

There may be charitable causes that only you can serve. But barring those, that's one of the things money is for.

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>> Exactly, life will be slightly harder and will get harder until we reach an equilibrium or intervene to prevent further climate change.

> I think the flaw here is that it takes a lot of time to act to stop climate change.

The other flaw is the idea that global warming stops exactly when we finally do take action. That's not how this works.

Two technical terms for you: ECS and TCR. Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) is the amount of warming you get eventually (after 1000 years or so) while TCR is the amount of warming you get immediately (by definition, increasing CO2 1% per year, thus doubling in 70 years). The actual rate of increase was 12.2% in the last 20 years or 0.58% per year, so we should get slightly more warming than TCR predicts. Anyway, TCR is typically estimated around 1.75°C and ECS around 3.0°C, so after the CO2 concentration stops increasing, warming will continue at a slower rate as Earth inches very slowly toward equilibrium. (On the other hand, the oceans will continue having some ability to absorb CO2 so if we actually do stop *all* our emissions, CO2 concentrations will drop for quite some time afterward, allowing global warming to finally stop. Also, the actual amount of warming observed somewhat below this median TCR prediction when non-CO2 greenhouse gases are considered.) Reasons for the slower temperature increase include ocean warming (oceans take a very long time to heat up, which is a big part of the reason that ocean surfaces have warmed slower than land) and the melting of arctic surface ice, a feedback loop that causes more sunlight absorption that in turn causes more melting.

Another factor is aerosol-induced cooling. When we burn fossil fuels, it puts aerosols in the atmosphere that have, perhaps surprisingly, a cooling effect, related to the global dimming that Scott mentioned. Like white paint, these aerosols reflect some sunlight back to space, but they are temporary and disappear soon after emission. From 1945 to 1975 the northern hemisphere cooled by about 0.3°C and there was talk of a coming ice age—that's the aerosol effect, and it is estimated that the (poor and relatively unpopulated) southern hemisphere actually warmed slightly in the same time period, though measurements in the southern hemisphere were spotty. Aerosols don't accumulate in the atmosphere like CO2, so eventually the CO2 effect became larger. As a Broeker paper correctly stated in 1975: "…a strong case can be made that the present cooling trend will, within a decade or so, give way to a pronounced warming induced by carbon dioxide."

Sea level rise certainly won't stop. Ice melts at zero celcius; there is little or no melting below zero. Standard practice by dismissives (who hate the other "d" word) is to linearly interpolate between dates. So if some scientists say 8 feet of sea level rise this century is "physically plausible", the dismissive takes this as a prediction that there DEFINITELY should have been 20% of that by now (1.6 feet) when actually there has only been about 3 inches, so the scientist's prediction about 2100 has already been falsified. (Note: sea level rise before 1993 was primarily caused by thermal ocean expansion.)

But Greenland is a mile thick. It doesn't melt linearly as the temperature rises, and it most certainly doesn't stop melting the instant we stop burning fossil fuels.

Overall I think Scott is right on the money that the first world will suffer very little and the third world much more. Try living a couple of years in the Philippines or Costa Rica before you tell me you wouldn't mind if it were a couple of degrees warmer. Note that global warming is faster on land than sea, and if scientists were better at marketing they would have set the Paris target at 5°F over land which is approximately equivalent to 2°C globally, but sounds bigger.

In summary, the idea that market forces alone will stop global warming "because we'll build clean energy eventually if and when it gets bad" (with no carbon tax, no border carbon adjustments or other economic tools) is wrong because

1. Global warming and especially sea level rise will continue after the CO2 concentration stabilizes, partly because the climate system has inertia and partly because the loss of cooling aerosols will have an extra warming effect.

2. The people harmed most (third worlders) are those least responsible (1st world + China). That's why Nixon created the EPA in the first place: polluters weren't themselves harmed by their pollution, so why stop? [to those saying "CO2 isn't pollution because we breathe out CO2": would you also say that noise pollution can't exist because people can talk?]

3. Responsibility is diffuse - my personal contribution to global warming is negligible, and even large companies have little effect. If I personally live sustainably it will make no difference, hence the need to internalize the negative externality.

4. We just have to build nuclear reactors, people. People of the 20th century made this WAY harder than it needed to be by ferociously opposing a statistically very safe power source (while not opposing coal to anywhere near the same extent). Reactors were affordable in the 1970s and could be again, if we make that choice. We even have superior options now, such as molten salt reactors, which can greatly increase the safety-to-cost ratio, plus key components and even entire reactors can be factory-constructed.

I like to cite Bernard Cohen's survey of radiation scientists on this (http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter5.html):

2. The impressions created by television coverage of the dangers of radiation (check one)

59 grossly exaggerate the danger.

110 substantially exaggerate the danger.

26 slightly exaggerate the danger.

5 are approximately correct.

3 slightly underplay the danger.

2 substantially underplay the danger.

1 grossly underplay the danger.

This was in 1982, and it was still evident after Fukushima in 2011. I spent a couple of hours in 2011 watching videos of the tsunami in awe. The magitude 9.0 earthquake killed ~16,000 people but the amount of property damage was even more amazing. Watching a helicopter's view of the tsunami as it just kept going and going and going, like the Energizer bunny from hell — I'll never forget it. But I noticed that pretty soon the news wanted to talk about Fukushima exclusively. It didn't help that there was an unnecessary and botched relocation that probably killed more people (~1000) than the radiation itself is likely to have killed if a sensible temporary evacuation had been done instead. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0957582017300782)

Renewables can take us much of the way, but cloudy windless days happen, and you can already see the solar farm NIMBYs growing alongside the existing nuclear NIMBYs... so nuclear badly needs more defenders right now.

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