Saturday, February 02, 2008

Unsung Canadian Achievement: the Late Professor John Dales, Inventor of Emissions Trading

John H. Dales was a teacher of many things. He passed away August 16, 2007. If the world moves to use Carbon trading offsets to retard the impact of Humankind on the Earth's environment, we can point to Professor Dales, and link appropriately his origination of the idea of emissions trading in 1968.

He taught many courses at the University of Toronto, including the undergraduate course, Economic History of Canada that I attended. Personally, I had very many private conversations with him, to which he provided his guidance, knowledge and wisdom as he was always available to his students, pushing them and pointing them gently in the right direction. He was also I believe instrumental in bringing such guest speakers such as Harold O. Wilson from Harvard ('inventor' of social biology) to New College in the 80's.

In the Fall 2007 issue of the U0fT Department of Economics publication "Trade Offs" they state the following with respect to the passing of Professor Dales:

"... John's development of the concept of tradable emission permits in his classic book Pollution, Property and Prices, published by the University of Toronto Press in 1968. While tradable emission permits were a radical idea in 1968, they were much discussed by environmental economists in the 1970s and they began to influence pollution control policies in the 1980s. In the United States, the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, Title IV embraced tradable emissions permits as the cornerstone of a massive program to cut in half the emissions of sulphur dioxide from coal-fired power plants. The success of that program has encouraged numerous other emissions trading initiatives including an air emissions program in Ontario. All serious proposals for controlling greenhouse gases, including the Kyoto Protocol, include emissions trading as an essential means of minimising the costs of achieving the environmental goal. Even today, 40 years after the book was published, the literature that discusses emissions trading recognises John's 1968 book."

As Canadians, we can take into our pride this work of one of our own, how we can within our collective power fairly and efficiently control greenhouse gas emissions, when we have the political will to do so. The conception and communication of how to do this was originated by Professor Dales, in 1968. The subsequent process of scientific debate and scholarship, that takes pure research into practical actions, has lead to great environmental attainments to date. The City of Sudbury in particular may owe the late Professor Dales perhaps a mention in their recent re-greening, as well as those who enjoy the lakes in the Province of Ontario that are no longer threatened with death by acid rain. The people who will one day save this planet from irreparable climate change, will likely owe their success ultimately to the self-diminishing, gentleman with crow's eyes likely at a very young age, to the ever smiling, late Professor John Dales of the University of Toronto. His work will never be forgotten.


Anonymous said...

Dear Lawrence,

John Dales was my grandfather, and the patriarch of our family. Thank you for your kind words, and for paying homage to his remarkable work.

Yours very truly,

Linden Dales

khanhbk said...

John Dales's achievement about emission trading is very useful and great!! I want to read more about John Dales 's books.Can you send me some documentation about Dale's idea of emission trading?Thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

Dear Khanhbk, I hope this link guides you in the right direction. The book is also available on

Eric Dales

Lawrence said...

Thanks for your link Eric! Prof Dales is etched into my memories. So many good memories.