Renewable Matter # 5 / August

Claim the Sky!

by Robert Costanza

The atmosphere is a common asset of the global community. If an oil spill occurs in the oceans, governments collect natural resource damages for cleaning up the mess. Yet they sit idle in the face of a catastrophic “spill” of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The Public Trust 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. Approximately 90 companies globally are responsible for introducing two-thirds of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere.



The atmosphere is a community asset that belongs to all of us. The problem is that it is currently an open access resource – anyone can emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with no consequences to themselves – but with huge cumulative consequences to the climate and the global community. Many agree that charging companies and individuals for the damages...

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