We're looking at the web of connections between goods and services in UK and asking what might happen if the cost of moving stuff and people changes. That's a good old fashioned location theory question, but 21st century challenges are breathing new life into it. Some think we can ignore spatial costs altogether, others are certain we'll see radical relocalisation. Reality lies somewhere between these two extremes. We're going to have a poke into that reality using data, modelling and talking to people.
I completed my PhD at Leeds University as well (here's the PDF). It started with the problem of planning versus spontaneous order, took a detour via Andean potato farming, and ended up examining what I suspect is a blind spot in spatial economics. That's, handily, also exactly what GRIT wants to examine: why currently we don't really know what might happen to our spatial economies if/when costs go up, and why there probably aren't any easy slot-in solutions to solve the 'transport & climate change' problem.
Ever since having an argument with a libertarian many years back, I've also become a little obsessed with climate change. I hang around climate blogs and planet3.org writing unreadably long comments. With GRIT, I'm also now officially one of the statist rent-seekers with a vested interest in perpetuating climate alarmism...
Bill McKibben: "scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees." Provable carbon reserves are currently five times that amount. There isn't a single country in the world backing off from the burning the stuff - in fact, quite the reverse.
Physics doesn't care what political compromises we need to make, so we're probably screwed. But that's no excuse for not trying. What we do now may make the difference between a severely degraded climate and a world we won't recognise. It isn't the only challenge we face, but it's the defining one. At the moment, I'd have to agree with Agent Smith: collectively, we seem to be a virus, regardless of what intelligence any individual or organisation may have. I hope we prove to be more than that.