Our research group is working in four broad areas:

Publications − Economics, Energy, Environment

``The world's user-generated road map is more than 80% complete'' (with Adam Millard-Ball), PLOS One, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0180698, August 2017.
We provide the first complete and robust assessment of completeness for the world's only global-level, openly licensed source of geospatial road data, OpenStreetMap (OSM). We use two complementary, independent methods to assess the completeness of OSM road data in each country and provide a new estimate of global road length which represents a substantial revision to existing assessments.
With this publication we are also releasing our complete computer code and datasets under open licenses.
PDF manuscript

Genevieve Gariepy, Frank J. Elgar, Mariane Sentenac, Christopher Barrington-Leigh, ``Early-life family income and subjective well-being in adolescents'', PLOS One, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0179380, July 2017.

``Sustainability and Well-Being: A Happy Synergy'', Great Transition Initiative, April 2017.
The "inconvenient truths" threatening our future, such as climate change and social polarization, receive justifiable notoriety. But there are also "convenient truths" that provide the basis for hope. This essay explores a win-win for people and planet: the ways that nurturing satisfying lives aligns with the search for environmental sustainability.
My essay (GTI PDF) and my response to some of the reactions to my essay from the GTI community.

``The Impact of Daily Weather Conditions on Life Satisfaction: Evidence from Cross-sectional and Panel Data'' (with Fatemeh Behzadnejad), Journal of Economic Psychology, Volume 59, pages 145–163 doi:10.1016/j.joep.2017.01.003, April 2017.
JEP PDF (free for a while)

PDF manuscript

``More connected urban roads reduce US GHG emissions'' (with Adam Millard-Ball), Environmental Research Letters, Volume 12, Number 4 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aa59ba, 2017.
Our choice of where to lay down local road networks in new residential developments may have long-lasting impacts on climate change. Because these choices are more permanent than nearly any other development decision, and because their impacts on urban form may grow over time, we consider the impacts of changing road network connectivity on transportation greenhouse gas emissions over the coming half century.
Open access PDF and Supplementary information from ERL.

``The role of subjective well-being as an organizing concept for community indicators'', chapter in Community Quality-of-Life Indicators: Best Cases VII, Meg Holden, Rhonda Phillips and Chantal Stevens (Eds.), published by Springer, 2017.
Book chapter PDF (by request)
PDF (manuscript)

``Measuring progress and well-being: A comparative review of indicators'' (with Alice Escande), Social Indicators Research, doi:10.1007/s11205-016-1505-0, 2017.
We provide a new database sampling well-being and progress indicators implemented since the 1970s at all geographic scales. We assess in particular the roles of subjective well-being and of sustainability metrics in the evolution of attempts to better measure progress and the broadest social outcomes.
Springer-Nature's free online version
PDF manuscript
Our full database of indicators is available under the Creative Commons license.

``The renewable energy landscape in Canada: a spatial analysis'' (with Mark Ouliaris), Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 75, pages 809-819, doi:10.1016/j.rser.2016.11.061, August 2017.
Two new things are in this paper: we look at likely future renewable energy portfolios with enough geographic resolution to split them up by province. We also provide an intuitive breakdown, by province, of what energy (electricity and other) is currently used for. Bringing these together, we find which provinces could be fully renewably powered.
A series of province-by-province graphics and all other extra material is available online. It includes links to 1-page PDF summaries for all provinces; and individually: BC; AB; SK; MB; ON; QC; NB; NS; PE; NF
Full manuscript published in RSER (PDF)
(An earlier, longer version was released as USAEE Working Paper No. 16-246)

``Evaluating the short-term cost of low-level local air pollution: a life satisfaction approach'' (with Fatemeh Behzadnejad), Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 269–298 doi:10.1007/s10018-016-0152-7, April 2017.
Canada has relatively low urban air pollution, yet we identify strong income-equivalent effects of daily variation in air quality, through the life satisfaction approach.
Published EEPS PDF and the acknowledgements (as a separate erratum).
Our version (PDF), all together.

``Life satisfaction among Aboriginals in the Canadian Prairies: Evidence from the Equality, Security and Community survey'' (with Sabina Sloman), The International Indigenous Policy Journal, doi:10.18584/iipj.2016.7.2.2, Vol. 7, No. 2, 25 May 2016.
Subjective well-being (life satisfaction, in particular) is extensively measured in Canada but not for Aboriginal citizens on reserve. Using data from a rare 2003 exception, we find some expected consistencies with other populations, in terms of the relationship between objective life circumstances and subjective reports, and some differences.
Prettier layout PDF

``The Beginning of the End of Sprawl, Public Sector Digest, Dec 2015.
A look at street-network urban sprawl in Canada, including a breakdown by metro area and by municipality of whose streets are worst for trapping people in a lifestyle with car-oriented mobility. I also analyze which the trends in new developments in each city.

``Short-run household, industrial, and labour impacts of the Québec carbon market'' (with Bronwen Tucker and Joaquin Kritz Lara), Canadian Public Policy, 1 December 2015. doi:10.3138/cpp.2015-015 (PDF)
More detailed working paper version: PDF

Local copy of CPP PDF: PDF

``A Century of Sprawl in the United States'' (with Adam Millard-Ball), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 15 June 2015. doi:10.1073/pnas.1504033112
The urban street network is one of the most permanent features of cities. Once laid down, the pattern of streets determines urban form and the level of sprawl for decades to come. We present a high-resolution time series of urban sprawl, as measured through street network connectivity, in the United States from 1920 to 2012. We find a major turnaround in newly constructed road-network sprawl in the mid-1990s.
PNAS article with Supporting Information (PDF)
Just the 6-page PNAS article (PDF)
Our open dataset, interactive graphics browser, and video are available online. The open data are registered permanently as DOI:10.5061/dryad.3k502.
``Rising life satisfaction in Korea: A Panel Data Analysis'', in Measuring and Explaining Subjective Well-being in Korea, May 2015.
South Korea represents, along with Quebec, a remarkable example of a society which has experienced a significant and steady rise in reported life satisfaction over more than a decade. This chapter uses a detailed panel survey to shed light on who is benefiting and why.
Just Chapter 5 from the book
A nicer version of Chapter 5 (my formatting).
The whole book
``Comprendre l'égalité par le bien-être: le cas du Québec'', in Miser sur l'égalité, l'Institut du Nouveau Monde, 2014
English version (PDF)
En français (PDF)
The preface and conclusion from the book are available.
``Consumption Externalities'', Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research, Michalos, Alex C. (Ed.), Springer, 2014.
This is an encyclopedia entry with a focus on relative income effects, which is often now what economists mean when they refer to consumption externalities. Usually "externalities" by itself refers instead to some form of production externality.
Lara B. Aknin, C. P. Barrington-Leigh, Elizabeth W. Dunn, John F. Helliwell, Robert Biswas-Diener, Imelda Kemeza, Paul Nyende, Claire Ashton-James, Michael I. Norton,
``Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal'', Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 104(4), Apr 2013, 635-652. DOI: 10.1037/a0031578
Correlations in survey data from 136 countries are complemented by experiments carried out in Canada, Uganda, and South Africa to suggest that human beings around the world derive emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others (prosocial spending).
A (much older) version (2010) was issued as an NBER working paper.
APA-PDF and supplement
manuscript (PDF)
``The Québec convergence and Canadian life satisfaction 1985--2008,'' Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques, Vol. 39., No. 2, June 2013. DOI: 10.3138/CPP.39.2.193
Using 25 years of the Canadian General Social Survey, I examine trends in life satisfaction and economic and social variables and find that Québec has undergone a remarkable upward shift in mean life satisfaction, as compared with the rest of Canada, during this period. The shift is not easy to explain with conventional economic indices.
CPP PDF 27pp
printable PDF 29pp
PDF w/ appendix 165pp
Video animations in English and French are available to show the evolution over time.:
Presentation (PDF) from 30 May 2012 "Forum Vers un indicateur officiel du mieux-vivre québécois", Quebec City. An older (2010) version of the paper is available (and includes an analysis of consistency over time of inferences about local communities).
Matthew Brown, Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Zosia Brown, ``Kernel Regression for Real-Time Building Energy Analysis'', Journal of Building Performance Simulation, June 2011. DOI: 10.1080/19401493.2011.577539
``How much is social capital worth?'' (with John F. Helliwell), a chapter in The Social Cure: Identity, Health, and Well-being, edited by Jolanda Jetten, Catherine Haslam, and S. Alexander Haslam, 2011.
The NBER version
The same, with appendix attached
``Cutting through the Clutter: Searching for an Over-Arching Measure of Well-Being'' (with Jon Hall and John F. Helliwell), DICE Report, Vol. 8, Issue 4, 2011.
``Measuring and Understanding Subjective Well-Being'' (with John F. Helliwell), Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol. 43, Issue 3, pp. 729-753, August 2010.
The CJE version
Earlier NBER version
The same, with appendix attached
``International evidence on the social context of well-being'' (with John F. Helliwell, Anthony Harris, and Haifang Huang), a chapter in International Differences in Well-Being, edited by Kahneman, Diener and Helliwell (Oxford University Press), 2010.
On Google books
NBER version
The same, with appendix attached
Our VOXeu.org opinion piece on this work.

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Working papers − Economics

April 2013 ``Quantity or quantile? A global study of income, status, and happiness''
Analysis of individual subjective well-being data from 149 countries challenges the canonical assumption that the effect of income on life evaluations is best captured by a log income form. I discuss the possibility of overwhelming and global consumption externalities, based on normal interpretation of life evaluation data.

Oct 2010 ``Economic inequality and subjective well-being''
Countries vary in the degree to which dispersion of incomes relates to dispersion of subjective well-being. Gallup World Poll data from 136 countries are used to assess who benefits or suffers from a greater or lesser degree of such inequality.

Aug 2008 ``Veblen goods and neighbourhoods: endogenising consumption reference groups''
This is a theory paper looking at the implications for endogenous sorting and welfare when preferences involve strong consumption externalities with one's neighbours.

Dec 2008 ``Empathy and emulation: life satisfaction and the urban geography of comparison groups'' (NBER working paper 14593)
This is an empirical study using life satisfaction data from large national surveys in Canada. Its aim is to measure the degree and geographic scale of consumption externalities with neighbouring households.
NBER-PDF NBER-appendix

May 2005 ``Commons, privatisation, and the distribution of wealth in tradeable assets''
This is a theory paper looking at the insurance value of being able to trade precautionary-saving assets when credit constraints exist. It takes a computational approach to the heterogeneous distribution problem.

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Publications − Physics

Smith, David M., Liliana I. Lopez, R. P. Lin, and Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh, ``Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flashes Observed up to 20 MeV'', Science, Vol 307, Issue 5712, Feb 2005.
Science-PDF HTML
Moore, Robert C., C. P. Barrington-Leigh, U. S. Inan, and T. F. Bell, ``Early/Fast VLF Events Produced by Electron Density Changes Associated with Sprite Halos'', J. Geophys. Res. 108,, No. A10, 1363, Oct. 2003.
JGR-PDF abstract
Lin RP, et al., ``The Reuven Ramaty high-energy solar spectroscopic imager (RHESSI)'', Solar Physics, 210 (1-2): 3-32 Nov 2002.
SolPhys-PDF abstract
Barrington-Leigh, C. P., V. P. Pasko, and U. S. Inan, ``Exponential relaxation of optical emissions in sprites'', J. Geophys. Res. 107, No. A5, May 2002. hyper-PDF JGR-PDF
Barrington-Leigh, C. P., U. S. Inan, and M. Stanley, ``Identification of Sprites and Elves with Intensified Video and Broadband Array Photometry'', J. Geophys. Res. 106, No. 2, February, 2001. hyper-PDF JGR-PDF DOI:10.1029/2000JA000073
Gerken, E. A., U. S. Inan, C. P. Barrington-Leigh, ``Telescopic imaging of sprites'', Geophys. Res. Lett. Vol. 27, No. 17, September 1, 2000. PDF GRL-PDF
Barrington-Leigh, C. P., U. S. Inan, M. Stanley, and S. A. Cummer, ``Sprites triggered by negative lightning discharges'', Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, No. 24, December 1999. PDF GRL-PDF HTML
Barrington-Leigh, C. P., and U. S. Inan, ``Elves triggered by positive and negative lightning discharges'', Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, No. 6, March 1999. PDF GRL-PDF HTML
Cummer, S. A., U. S. Inan, T. F. Bell, C. P. Barrington-Leigh, ``ELF radiation produced by electrical currents in sprites,'' Geophys. Res. Lett. 25, No. 8 , p. 1281, April 15, 1998. PDF GRL-PDF
Inan, U.S., C. P. Barrington-Leigh, S. Hansen, V.S. Glukhov, T.F. Bell, and R. Rairden, ``Rapid Lateral Expansion of Optical Luminosity in Lightning-Induced Ionospheric Flashes Referred to as `Elves,' '', Geophys. Res. Lett., 24, 5, pp. 583-586, 1997. PDF GRL-PDF HTML
Abela, Marc, et al. Ra: The Sun for Science and Humanity, International Space University, 1996.
Executive Summary and TOC
Barrington-Leigh, C. P., ``A Mountaineering Accident: Not So Sticky After All'', The Physics Teacher, 30, Number 5, May 1992.
PT-PDF toc

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Selected Presentations

Economics (only those available for download)

"The future of monetary exchange systems (and why bitcoin is not)", presentation to Association des économistes québécois, Montreal, 2014 November.


Barrington-Leigh, C. P., V. P. Pasko, and U. S. Inan, "Non-spectral measurements of ionization processes in sprites," URSI General Assembly, August 2002, Maastricht, Netherlands. [Presented by V. P. Pasko.]

Barrington-Leigh, C. P., "Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes After CGRO: Prospects From HESSI," EOS Trans. AGU, 82, 47, 2001. [poster/PDF]

Barrington-Leigh, C. P., V. P. Pasko, and U. S. Inan, "Exponential relaxation of optical emissions in sprites," CEDAR Workshop, Longmont, Colorado, June 2001. [poster/PDF]

Barrington-Leigh, C. P. and U. S. Inan, ``Unusually Intense Sprite Events Studied with Video, Photometry, and ULF/ELF/VLF Recordings,'' 2000 URSI National Radio Science Meeting, Program and Abstracts, p. 177, Boulder, Colorado, January 4-8, 2000.

Barrington-Leigh, C. P., U. S. Inan and M. Stanley, ``Elves: Photometric and Video Signatures,'' EOS Trans. AGU, 80, 46, 1999. [poster/PDF]

Barrington-Leigh, C. P. and U. S. Inan, ``High Speed Photometric Measurements of Thunderstorm Energetic Coupling to the Mesosphere and Lower Ionosphere,'' URSI General Assembly, August 1999, Toronto, Canada.

Barrington-Leigh, C. P., U. S. Inan, E. A. Gerken, ``Temporal and Spatial Structure of Sprites: Photometric and CCD Observations,'' EOS Trans. AGU, 79 1998.

Brook, M, M Stanley, P Krehbiel, W Rison, C B Moore, C P Barrington-Leigh, D Suszcynsky, T Nelson, W Lyons, ``Correlated Electric Field, Video, and Photometric Evidence of Charge Transfer Within Sprites,'' EOS Trans. AGU, 78 1997.

Barrington-Leigh, C. P., M. Stanley, U. S. Inan, ``Fast multi-channel photometry, broadband sferics, and intensified video observations of sprites and elves over southwestern United States and Mexico,'' EOS Trans. AGU, 78 1997.

Inan, U. S., et al., ``Rapid Lateral Expansion of Optical Luminosity in Lightning-Induced Ionospheric Flashes Referred to as 'Elves,''' EOS Trans. AGU, 77, 46, 1996.

Barrington-Leigh, C., et al., ``The Fly's Eye: A High-speed Photometric Array to Measure the Sub-millisecond Dynamics of Sprites and Elves,'' EOS Trans. AGU, 77, 46, 1996.

Paularena, K. I., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., and Lazarus, A. J., ``IMP-8 Solar Wind Parameters over Two Solar Cycles,'' EOS Trans. AGU, 74, 485, 1993.

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Published opinion

Dec 2016 "Canada well on its way to a renewable-energy future", The Globe and Mail, 24 December, 2016.

Feb 2015 "McGill must divest its endowment fund of fossil fuels", The Gazette, 10 February, 2015 (with Shaun Lovejoy and Darin Barney).

Feb 2015 "McGill doit sortir des énergies fossiles", Le Devoir, 10 February, 2015 (with Shaun Lovejoy, Darin Barney, and Richard Janda).

Dec 2012 "Quebec attitude changing — for the better", The Gazette, 30 December, 2012.

Nov 2012 "Le bonheur québécois" , La Presse, 26 November 2012. (PDF)

June 2012 "How does the ability to measure aggregate human happiness impact policy?" , Arts Insights, Summer 2012.

April 2010 "International evidence on the social context of wellbeing" , VOXeu.org, 24 April 2010.

March 2007 "Greenwashing Gateway", The Tyee, 19 March 2007 (with Paul Keeling).

Dec 2005 "Finding a plug for carbon leaks", Toronto Star, Dec. 3, 2005 (with Jennifer Ardiel and Katherine Muncaster).

Book Review


Mar 2008 Evaluation of life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions involved in online purchase versus in-store purchase of MEC goods PDF
Feb 2008 Searching for the Good Life in a Carbon Neutral BC: Meeting BC's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets with Fairness and Equity"
(A publication of the CCPA with contributions from the Climate Justice Project team members)

Nov 2007 Response to Environmental Assessment Certificate Application for: Port Mann/Highway 1 (PMH1) PDF
Dec 2006 Response to the draft Terms of Reference for the Environmental Assessment of the Port Mann Bridge / Highway 1 portion of the B.C. government's "Gateway Program" PDF
May 2006 Accountability and targets in the B.C. government's "Gateway Program" PDF

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Media coverage


Selected print and popular press related to our work on life satisfaction:


Online and in print news and popular press related to our work on thunderstorm coupling to the mesosphere and ionosphere (red sprites, etc):

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Economics Dissertation (2009)

Geographic reference groups and the determinants of life satisfaction,
PhD (Economics) under John Helliwell / Thomas Lemieux, University of British Columbia, January 2009. (

Applied Physics Dissertation (2000)

Fast Photometric Imaging of High Altitude Optical Flashes Above Thunderstorms,
PhD (Applied Physics) under Umran S Inan, Stanford University, October 2000. (Abstract)

Undergraduate thesis (1995)

Neutral Density Profiles From a Diverted Plasma in Alcator C-Mod,
S.B. (Physics) under John Rice, M.I.T., May 1995

(For fun) I.B., ie high school, thesis (1990)

An Assessment of the Prospects for Suspended Animation Through the Application of Natural Cold Tolerance Strategies, International Baccalaureate Extended Essay, February 1990

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