The atmosphere is a community asset that belongs to all people. The problem is that it is treated as an open access resource – anyone can emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with no consequences to themselves – but huge cumulative consequences to the climate and the global community. Many agree that charging companies and individuals for the damages their emissions cause, for example a comprehensive carbon tax or cap/auction/dividend/trade system, would drastically cut emissions. However, despite some interesting regional experiments, implementing this kind of system via international negotiations at the global scale has proven close to impossible. A few critical governments, influenced too much by fossil fuel interests, have been blocking binding commitments and effective economic instruments. In this chapter, the author argues that global civil society can change this if it claims property rights over the atmosphere. By asserting that all people collectively own the sky, legal institutions surrounding property can be used to protect our collective rights, charge for damages to the asset and provide rewards for improving the asset. This idea has been proposed by Peter Barnes and others. The public trust doctrine is a powerful emerging legal principle that supports this idea. The doctrine holds that certain natural resources are to be held in trust as assets to serve the public good. It is the government’s responsibility as trustee to protect these assets from harm and maintain them for the public’s use. Under this doctrine, the government cannot give away or sell off these public assets to private parties. The public trust doctrine has been used in many countries in the past to protect water bodies, shorelines, fresh water, wildlife and other resources.
Cutler J. Cleveland, Robert Costanza and David I. Stern
Edited by Cutler J. Cleveland, David I. Stern and Robert Costanza
Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Ida Kubiszewski and Robert Costanza
Ida Kubiszewski, Robert Costanza, Sharolyn Anderson and Paul Sutton
The authors estimated the future value of ecosystem services in monetary units for four alternative global land use and management scenarios based on the Great Transition Initiative (GTI) scenarios to the year 2050. They used previous estimates of the per biome values of ecosystem services in 2011 as the basis for comparison. They then mapped projected land-use for 16 biomes at 1 km2 resolution globally for each scenario. This, combined with differences in land management for each scenario, created estimates of global ecosystem services values that also allowed for examinations of individual countries. Results show that under different scenarios the global value of ecosystem services can decline by $51 trillion/yr or increase by US$30 trillion/yr. In addition to the global values, the chapter reports totals for all countries and maps for a few example countries. Results show that adopting a set of policies similar to those required to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals would greatly enhance ecosystem services, human wellbeing and sustainability.