Nordhaus: a Nobel for over-discounting, and no public goods

Nordhaus has gotten a Nobel for understating the damage from climate change, and overstating the cost of doing anything about it. Continue reading

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OECD’s bad news on carbon tax is hopelessly optimistic

Layers of bad news: OECD says carbon pricing is far too low to fight global warming – an 80% shortfall! But peel back the layers and the story is much worse. The cost of carbon they use for that calculation is seriously low-balled, so the real shortfall should be much higher. And then, deep in the OECD report, we learn that the benefits of motor fuel tax are double-counted – it seems we already needed that money to pay for costs of traffic congestion, local air pollution, and people run over by cars, so there’s little, if anything, left for carbon pollution. Then, following up the OECD’s sources for that double-counting calculation we see that this, too, is understated – it completely ignores the multiplier effects of driving & damage from chasing pedestrians and cyclists off the road. And, finally, if we pay for all that environmental damage with fuel tax, who pays for the roads themselves?

The carbon pricing report is undoubtedly put together by people with a great concern about global warming and effective climate policy, and they’re delivering some bad news. Yet it is hard not to see it as an example of what Kevin Anderson (@kevinclimate) has described: that most of the policy and advocacy and even the science of climate change is presented in colossally over-optimistic scenarios. Let’s peel back the layers to see how that works. Continue reading

Municipal food markets: why Cagliari but not Wood Green?

I’ll begin with my conclusion: municipal markets – daily indoor markets with a core of stalls selling fresh produce, meat and baked goods – should be at the centre of “regeneration” plans for town centres.

In April this year I was in Cagliari, Sardinia, working (life in the academy is tough, I tell you). I was fortunate to be staying near the San Benedetto market. At 8,000 square meters it is the largest of Cagliari’s four municipal markets; the city’s tourist information claims it’s the largest municipal market in Europe. Continue reading

Finsbury Park: cycling and safety

Strictly of local interest: this is from my response the Friends of Finsbury Park consultation on park safety. You can give your own response the consultation at this link.

The park safety plan should address the need for selected cycle routes after dark.

After-dark closure of park gates is superficially attractive, but in my twenty years of walking past this park there has never been a time when people weren’t able to get in through gaps made in the fence. Maintaining that fence must be a lot of work! So the question is not whether people who want to be there can get in, but whether people who are in the park (whether through a hole in the fence or because the gates are kept open) are safe.

And, note also needs to be taken of the role of the park as a hub for active transport, both walking and cycling.

When the park gates are open and passage through feels safe, communities on different sides of the park are connected for people travelling by foot or bike. When the park is closed, the connections between those communities are severed, as if on opposite sides of a motorway. Consider here the Oxford Rd/Stroud Green side of the park and the Manor House/Woodbury Downs area, well connected when the park is open, very far apart when it is closed.

The park is also an important hub for cycle longer distance cycle routes, with heavily travelled routes radiating from the park in several directions. Many of the roads bordering the park have heavy motor traffic and insufficient space for safe cycling. This makes the park a useful place to pass through on a bike – and also, for many, it feels like a much safer place than on a road like Endymion, Green Lanes or Seven Sisters in the sections where those roads border the park. When days get short in autumn and winter this leaves many cyclists without safe routes through or past the park.

The present heavy use of the park for cycling through-routes persists despite that fact that the locations and design of entrances, and the paths through the park, are often not well set up as cycle routes: there is no route paralleling Green Lanes, the Oxford Rd bridge is too narrow, there is no good connection from Wightman Rd, and so on. There is good reason to think that cycling provision in the park can, should, and will be improved. For instance:

  • The Mayor and TFL have identified Seven Sisters Rd as a part of a strategic cycling corridor (Tottenham Hale – Camden); unlike many parts of that corridor, the segment of Seven Sisters adjacent to the park is not wide enough to accommodate both cycle lanes and bus lanes. To achieve a continuous bike corridor without compromising bus service, a route through the park seems likely. To shut such a route at night would entirely defeat its purpose.
  • An entrance to the park from Alroy / Wightman roads, to accommodate the substantial cycle traffic coming down Wightman, is proposed in the final report of the Haringey Council’s Green Lanes consultation.

For these reasons, the safety plan for the park should include a small number of well-lit, all-hours routes for both cyclists and pedestrians.

No graveyard: dockless bikes in Chengdu

Last November the Guardian reported on a vast graveyard of dockless bikes in the Chinese city of Xiamen. I’ve just come back from three weeks in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and from what I saw in the Wenjiang district of that city, dockless bikes are alive and well. Here are some (plus a few personal bikes, each secured with a lock on one wheel and held up by a kickstand) outside a metro station. There are, I think, four companies active in that market. When I was in the same area four years ago, neither the metro station nor the dockless bikes existed – nor did many of the bike lanes now apparent. Nor, for that matter, the trees. Continue reading