The Atmosphere as an International Common Property Resource

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"The impact of human activities on the atmosphere has become a global policy problem as scientific evidence has mounted on the transboundary effects of acid deposition on lakes and forests, a global warming trend attributable to a buildup of 'greenhouse' gases, and a depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer that can be linked to production of CFCs. These problems have been taken up by an extensive network of global and regional international institutions, in particular WMO, UNEP, ECE, and the ICSU. Extensive research on the condition of the atmosphere has been conducted since the IGY in 1957-8. As a common property resource, use of the atmosphere must be regulated internationally. Customary law has some applicability, but there is a need for further development of treaty law on emissions of specific air pollutants. Agreement on international regulations is hindered by differences of interest, concerns about equity, the limited ecological and technological means of some countries, and the temptation to be a free rider. While some progress has been made, especially in increasing scientific knowledge of the threats to the atmosphere, states must do much more to regulate pollutants and landuse practice."



global commons, common pool resources, air pollution, acid rain