September 13th, 2008

My interests

Welcome to The Counterfactual

These are a few of the things I’m interested in…

Climate change

The thing that most fascinates me is the role ‘time’ plays in responding to a challenge like climate change. People tend to think in states that they would like to see at a point in time, whereas it is better to think of pathways through which changes can happen – there is inertia everywhere. Transitions in infrastructure, unlike in consumer markets, take many years or decades.  The presentation below explores some of those ideas.

My TEDx talk on “Why time complicates climate change – and what to do about it.

Below is a longer version of the presentation used at TEDx – including my views of how to address these challenges.

Why time complicates climate change – and what to do about it

Sustainable development

Making sense of the vague and debased concept of sustainable development. For me it is about maximising human wellbeing over the long term, taking account of the art of the politically possible.
See also this brief overview of the ideas and some of the questions it raises for the major policy areas – here.  And for a longer account, please look at a more detailed paper – here.

Tobacco Harm Reduction

I think the displacement and ultimate obsolescence of smoking is possible and we are in a time of great change and disruption. You can read my long and short briefing on this, and explore my blog for more information.  Getting this right is the single most important public health strategy for the 21st Century, and hundreds of millions of premature deaths could be avoided.

My main concern is that almost everything done by regulators, governments and the public health community will make things worse. This is because they don’t really think enough about unintended consequences of regulation. Here’s a short presentation on what might go wrong.


Behaviour change

One of my first jobs in government was to work on ‘behaviour change’ or what has subsequently become known as ‘nudge’.  I wrote much of this early report on the subject: Personal Responsibility and Changing Behaviour: the state of knowledge and its implications for public policy.

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