Sebastian Schienle

Co-Founder & Director of Research @ Effektiv Spenden
223 karmaJoined


We had promised to monitor and report back on potential cannibalization of donations from other cause areas. Here’s a brief update after we made our initial set of grants from donations raised in Q1:

  • As of April 30, 2024, we have raised approximately €287.000 for our Democracy fund
  • Of this amount, we expect the fund to have, on balance, “cannibalized” approx. €21.000 away from other cause areas.
  • That’s just below 1% of the amount we have raised for all other grantees through new donations, i.e. the effect is limited.

Just to add: the current momentum in Germany is driven by a desire to act and defend democracy in Germany. (Many of our donors are not part of the EA community and are not necessarily seeking the highest global impact in this context at the moment.)

So in the absence of robust analysis on where else donations would go furthest and which organizations promise the highest expected impact globally, providing some tentative guidance to donors now on how to increase the impact of their donations within Germany seems plausible to me in the current context, particularly given the emphasis we place on the differences in the robustness of the underlying research between the Defending Democracy Fund and our other cause areas. (In addition, Germany seems sufficiently relevant to me globally as a liberal democracy that a temporary focus in the current situation is justifiable.)

So hopefully, the current focus provides a good entry point for donors who are new to effective giving whom we can then guide to the place where money goes furthest towards the goal of defending democracy, once such recommendations are available, as well as to other cause areas. 

Thanks. Yes, the marginal damage of missing the 3°C threshold by 0.1°C is higher than the marginal damage of missing the 1.5°C threshold by the same amount - and this gap is widening if we include tipping points. 

However, benefits are cumulative - i.e. staying below e.g., 2°C reduces the risk of damages and tipping elements at that temperature threshold and those of higher temperatures. A ton of CO2 we avoid today contributes to both goals. So even in terms of relative importance, I would still disagree. 

Thank you for the article and the comments! While I agree with the finding that additional warming  of tipping points seems limited in this century based on the current scientific understanding, I'd be  quite hesitant to conclude that avoiding warming >3°C only is most important. 

Even without strong direct, near- to medium-term impacts on global warming, tipping elements will have significant (regional) implications on ecosystems, human welfare etc. (Or, as Wang et al 2023 put it: "Overall, even considering remaining scientific uncertainties, tipping elements will influence future climate change and may involve major impacts on ecosystems, climate patterns, and the carbon cycle starting later this century. Aggressive efforts to stabilize climate change could significantly reduce such impacts.")

In combination with the significant remaining uncertainty around tipping elements / tipping points, applying the precautionary principle and avoiding as much warming as possible appear to be good strategies, as also called for by many authors of the underlying studies/papers themselves.