Ecotopian Library
The atmosphere is a global common-pool resource in its function as a sink for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Currently, it is available to everyone free of charge. Oceans and forests are closely linked to the atmospheric sink through the global carbon cycle and absorb some of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide. Oceans and forests are also global common-pool resources that serve as important sources of biodiversity, exhaustible minerals and fish resources. Is the efficient and equitable use of commons bound to fail? Elinor Ostrom demonstrated that communities on a local level can in fact enforce effective rules of use (Ostrom et al. 1994). Whether this capability can be replicated at the global level remains unclear. However, it would be dangerous to wait for the establishment of a global government that could regulate the climate according to a fully worked-out scheme before taking stringent climate change mitigation measures. There will not be a world government in the near future. But the management of the atmosphere as a global commons does not require one. In fact, it requires nested, interlinked policies at the international, national, regional and local levels. Elinor Ostrom and others call this multilevel or polycentric governance (Ostrom 2011). The question is: Which level is responsible for which issues, and how they can be coordinated? - Ottmar Edenhofer, Christian Flachsland, Bernhard Lorentz, The Atmosphere as a Global Commons