"Economic terms may derail existing opportunities to solve market failures, or account
for common ecological externalities, if existing practices based on rhetorical fallacies persist."

By Joseph Siry


In response to an unparalleled global peril to climatic stability, the European Union (EU) has adopted a carbon trading system among member nations. By making a commodity of carbon dioxide waste through the purchase of pollution credits, the potential exists to convert a thermal waste product, or economic externality, into a fungible asset. Carbon pollution, which alters the thermal capacity of the air to retain infrared radiation, is currently treated as a waste with no accountable costs attached. Yet there may be opportunities with new market simulated institutions to address this conversion of waste into assets that have internationally significant impacts, such as forests or wetlands.

These institutions, now being created in the Netherlands, Britain and the EU are based upon scientific knowledge, technical virtuosity and emerging commercial means to avert costly ecological problems of air and water pollution. Because of the influence of excessive carbon dioxide on a host of natural resource commodities from timber, to fisheries and agriculture, the prospects for adding value, not already attributable to certain logging, farming or grazing practices will have added benefits of forestalling the present loss of biological diversity and ecosystem services. The emerging commercial opportunities to internalize common costs (externalities) in the form of carbon trading, forces us to reassess the meaning and effectiveness of terms such as markets, accountable assets and externalities in a financial world where carbon or sulfur pollution "rights" are shifting the border between profits and losses for corporations and communities alike.


"When we destroy ecosystems and extinguish species, we degrade the greatest heritage this planet has to offer and thereby threaten our own existence."

        Wilson, The Future of Life, p. 39