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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In 1985 Barnes cofounded Working Assets, a long-distance telephone service provider that sets aside a portion of each customer's bill to donate to social and environmental causes. He now proposes a market-based solution to the problem of atmospheric pollution. A nongovernmental institution called the Sky Trust would set limits on carbon emissions and charge companies for the "right" to pollute. In much the same way that Alaskan residents receive "dividends" from income earned on the state's oil leases, citizens would collect money paid to the Sky Trust by polluters. Money from the trust would also be used to balance the effects of higher fuel prices. Barnes meticulously documents why the earth's atmosphere is invaluable, and he catalogs the damaging effects of carbon dioxide emissions before detailing how the Sky Trust would operate. He compares the sky to pastures or woodlands historically used collectively by commoners and considers how the principles behind the Sky Trust might be applied to other so-called commons or societal assets such as biodiversity, the airwaves, and quietude. David RouseCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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