Who Owns the Sky?: Our Common Assets And The Future Of Capitalism

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9781559638555: Who Owns the Sky?: Our Common Assets And The Future Of Capitalism
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Global warming has finally made clear the true costs of using our atmosphere as a giant sponge to soak up unwanted by-products of industrial activity. As nations, businesses, and citizens seek workable yet fair solutions for reducing carbon emissions, the question of who should pay -- and how -- looms large. Yet the surprising truth is that a system for protecting the atmosphere could be devised that would yield cash benefits to us all. In Who Owns the Sky?, visionary entrepreneur Peter Barnes redefines the debate about the costs and benefits of addressing climate change. He proposes a market-based institution called a Sky Trust that would set limits on carbon emissions and pay dividends to all of us, who collectively own the atmosphere as a commons. The Trust would be funded by requiring polluters to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, and managed by a non-governmental agency. Dividends would be paid annually, in much the same way that residents of Alaska today receive cash benefits from oil companies that drill in their state. Employing the same spirit of innovation that brought millions of dollars to the nonprofit sector through his company Working Assets, Barnes sets forth a practical new approach to protecting our shared inheritance -- not only the atmosphere, but water, forests, and other life-sustaining and economically valuable common resources. He shows how we can use markets and property rights to preserve and share the vast wealth around us, allowing us not only to profit from it, but to pass it on, undiminished, to future generations. Who Owns the Sky? is a remarkable look at the future of our economy, one in which we can retain capitalism's virtues while mitigating its vices. Peter Barnes draws on his personal experience as a successful entrepreneur to offer viable solutions to some of our most pressing environmental and social concerns.

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About the Author:

Peter Barnes is co-founder and president of the socially responsible telephone company Working Assets. He lives in San Francisco, California.

From Publishers Weekly:

Barnes (The People's Land), cofounder and former president of the "socially responsible" financial services company Working Assets, argues that natural resource management urgently needs rethinking, since the atmosphere's capacity for absorbing carbon gas emissions is severely tested every day. While not an alarmist, he cites recent statistics (e.g., between 1923 and 1991, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air grew from 298 to 355 parts per million, and the earth's average surface temperature rose from 57.4 to 58.0 F) and insists that we need new solutions. In Barnes's view, the problem is that we view the sky and other natural resources as free and thus use them as if they're unlimited. Moving beyond what he regards as standard eco-hand-wringing, Barnes discusses the successes of cap-and-trade systems in reducing emissions of sulfur, lead and other pollutants, and proposes a similar market-based approach for carbon dioxide. Barnes's system of pricing permits is modeled in part on Alaska's plan, in which oil companies that drill in the state make payments that are distributed to Alaska residents through a dividend-producing trust. He likewise proposes that the revenues from emissions-permit sales should go to the public, with each citizen receiving an equal monetary share. In this very brief and disappointingly thin sketch of his system (he leaves the nuts and bolts to others), Barnes frequently sounds as if he's making a repetitive sales pitch. Skeptics on both the left (who may not buy his free-market solutions) and the right (who may object to yet another tax on business) are unlikely to be moved by this book.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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9781559638548: Who Owns the Sky?: Our Common Assets And The Future Of Capitalism

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