University of Calgary

James Gaisford

  • Professor Emeritus of Economics

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.

About Me

I joined the Department of Economics at the University of Calgary in 1988 after spending two years at Wilfrid Laurier University. I earned my Doctorate from Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada) in 1987 and I hold Master of Arts degrees in Economics (Queen's University; 1982) and Social and Political Thought (York University; 1979). My course of study was motivated by a perceived need to understand national and international economics and politics so as to improve the state of society through better policy. In short, like many of my colleagues, I want to make the world a “better place”. In turn, I have found the university environment extremely stimulating.

My research focuses primarily on issues in international trade and I am particularly interested in how trade is coonected with the distribution of income, economic development, the environment and agriculture.  My teaching interests are diverse and include all levels of international trade and microeconomics as well as "contextual" fields such as the history of economic thought and agricultural economics.  Currently, I am serving as Associate Dean (Students) for the Faculty of Arts.

I am married with three adult children and a Gordon Setter dog.  I enjoy outdoor activities such as sailing, running (half Marathons!), hiking, skiing, and canoeing.  Other hobbies include woodwork and astronomy.

Current Research

Spotlight on Research (Did you know?) There is growing evidence that human economics activity is contributing to the build-up of green-house gasses (GHGs) and contributing to global warming or, more accurately, climate change. While the extent of the human contribution to climate change remains controversial, significant changes in climate per se are now well documented. Changes in climate will typically include greater variability in temperatures, more extreme weather events and changes in precipitation patterns as well as a general warming trend. Consequently, the extent to which the Kyoto Protocol and other related multilateral environment agreements are successful in reducing the pace of climate change implies potential future economic benefits. Nevertheless, the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord leave open important channels for possible offsetting increases in emissions or so-called carbon leakage. Joint work with several University of Calgary graduate students examines the possibility of global carbon leakage in the wake of the Kyoto agreement using a general equilibrium, international trade methodology pioneered by Copeland and Taylor (1994, 1995, 2001), Antweiler, Copeland and Taylor (2003) and others. Our work demonstrates two crucial results. First, the exemption of developing countries from emission caps under the Kyoto agreement will not only tend to generate carbon leakage at the national level as these countries emit more, but may also generate carbon leakage at the global level because the increases in emissions by the unconstrained developing countries will tend to exceed the reductions by the developed countries. Second, the Clean Development Mechanism in the Kyoto Protocol, which allows firms in developing countries to reduce emissions and sell corresponding credits to firms in developed countries, may cause further global carbon leakage.

While the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord have frequently been criticized on economic efficiency grounds, the importance of the climate change issue has convinced many observers that it is time to move forward for environmental reasons notwithstanding any economic shortcomings.  Our work strongly questions the view that these agreements are sufficiently good for the environment that they should be implemented with haste. Ironically the such agreements may actually exacerbate the environmental problem that they are intended to mitigate. By design the models utilized in our work provide very simple general equilibrium frameworks. Undoubtedly adding policy details and modeling complications may qualify the strong results concerning global carbon leakage. Even so, the analysis should sound an important note of caution concerning the potential effects of current global climate-change policy efforts.



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