Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Of all the trees most lovely

Photo taken in Brussels, December 2007. Yuletide felicitations to all!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Crain's on the skyline

The first edition of the new business paper Crain's Manchester Business hit the stands today. I've not been over the hills to get a copy (having finished my xmas shopping early for once, I'm trying to avoid urban centres for the while), but the online version is looking good.

Interesting choice of lead story, on problems in Manchester's city centre residential market - or Nightmare on Oldham Street as they head it. The editor's column, from my old boss Steve Brauner, pontificates further. These problems of over-supply and a very weak resale market are hardly unforeseen, and I've written about similar issues here before (see various posts under the regional label. They're not limited to Manc either - Leeds is probably as bad, or worse, and Sheffield is trying to deal with the problems before they develop.

Anyway, best wishes to Steve and the gang for making Crain's a success. As How-Do's reported, the Manchester Evening News and Newsco Insider have been stepping up to fend off the new entrant, though at least Newsco hasn't been playing as dirty as they did with the ill-fated North West Enquirer. One assumes that Crain's heavyweight US backing will help it last rather longer. New blood in the regional market has to be good.

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Station to station

Monumental yuppy love
Last week, en route to Belgium, we changed trains at the new-look St Pancras. The £800m regeneration of George Gilbert Scott's gothic brick fantasia - and, arguably even more impressive, William Henry Barlow's mammoth train shed, once the largest enclosed space in the world - as Britain's main Eurostar terminal means that Yorkshire travellers need waste next to no time in London on their journeys to the Continent.

It's an impressive conversion, banishing all memories of the former grime that encrusted the shed. It's not without its niggles, though - like any transport hub, there's bugger all places to sit apart from a cafe or (admittedly rather pleasant) champagne bar. And Paul Day's giant cuddling-yuppies statue is, to be honest, bloody horrible, a Saddam-like piece of monumental kitsch by way of Bridget Jones. I think I caught the best angle of it in the pic above.

I've put a couple more pics up over on my Flickr page.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Of fat-tailed catastrophes

Estimating the long-term costs of climate change has become something of a stumbling block in determining what we should be doing now to mitigate the worse effects. There's continuing debate about whether the short-term costs of mitigation outweigh the uncertain long-term costs of doing nowt - something complicated by questions about what the appropriate discount rate should be, as noted below. In the US, industry lobby groups have deployed cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to argue that it's just not cost-effective to do anything to reduce emissions now - given the long time horizons, it'll be better to deal with any problems if and when they happen, even if the cost is many times that of acting now. Basically, prevention isn't better than treatment.

Martin Weitzman, of Harvard's economics department, has now countered that device with a paper considering the possibility (however low) of a genuinely catastrophic event resulting from a failure to act now. Such events are usually ignored in standard CBA, mainly because they're a bit difficult to work with. Weitzman's model does include the possibility of extreme events (which he terms 'fat-tailed catastrophes'), and the results significantly shift the balance of costs. When applied to the current knowledge relating to climate change and emissions, Weitzman's analysis shows that mitigation investment makes a hell of a lot of sense in minimising expected future costs.

As Weitzman concludes:
Even just acknowledging more openly the incredible magnitude of the uncertainties that are involved in climate-change analysis - and explaining better to policy makers that the artificial crispness conveyed by conventional IAM-based CBAs here is especially and unusually misleading compared with more-ordinary non-climate-change CBA situations - would in my opinion go a long way towards elevating the level of a reality-based public discourse concerning what to do about global warming.

The fairly technical paper is available in draft as a PDF here. For the less technically inclined, New Scientist gives a good summary.

Labels: ,