Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Un-Common(s) Catastrophe: Philippines and the Tragedy of the Commons

The "Tragedy of the Commons" is that everyone overuses resources to the point of extinction. Since no one has a vested property interest, no one has the incentive to moderate their activities. On the contrary, the exploitation continues. One might say that climate change is a "Tragedy of the Commons." Since no one owns the atmosphere, everyone continues to dump greenhouse gases. Except, climate change may not be a tragedy of the commons. Typhoon Haiyan that hit Philippines was of proportions that scientists have long predicted would occur, with increasing frequency, because of climate change. Islands have been dessimated, houses have been flattened, and several other properties have been destroyed, some beyond redemption. These are not commons. They belong to the people of Tacloban, to the people of Philippines. If climate change is the cause of intensified storms that destroy property and territory, the solution does not lie in creating property rights in the atmosphere. It lies in respecting the property rights that already exist. As nations meet for the 19th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this is the question they should consider: how do we protect legal rights to property of others?

Deepa Badrinarayana


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