If damages caused by climate change go unclaimed, industries have no incentive to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change. That’s why an organization is developing software to compile damage claims against companies that create such problems. John Tulayev, one of the developers, explained to me what’s the idea and how it works.
Stop: What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
Tulayev: Currently the world is being thrown out of equilibrium. Without human action, the CO₂ released in the atmosphere by plants would be almost perfectly balanced with amount of CO₂ being put back into the atmosphere. Any extra Carbon emitted into the atmosphere throws the planet out of balance. According to the US Energy Information Administration in 2001, 25% of global carbon dioxide emissions came from fossil fuels being burned in the US alone. This in turn creates climate change which creates personal damages to individuals.
Stop: What is your proposal to solve this problem?
Tulayev: Stop treating our climate as a free resource and reimburse those that have been damaged, through a well known market model supported by Information Technology.
Stop: Which model are you talking about?
Tulayev: If the air is treated as if there is no owner it will be overused and polluted, as it currently is. If ownership is given to the air, then its owners will tax the polluters the amount that they feel harmed by the mistreatment of the air. Through the market model of supply and demand the two parties (air polluter and air owners) will in aggregate find exactly the price of the damages that the polluters caused to the environment and the owners will charge this to the polluters. Consequently, companies will react to avoid these repeated payments by innovating and investing in ways not to cause the pollution.
Stop: This, in theory…
Tulayev: In practice, market equilibrium only works if all parties have a say in the amount that they are being damaged. The current model of Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading is flawed and prone to misuse because it gives this ownership to corporations, not to people. This market failure is evident in the US: in 2003 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant. Together a group of state and city governments had to band together against this decision. A dozen states and several cities sued the EPA in 2007 (Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency) to force the EPA to reconsider this conclusion.
Stop: What do you propose to fix this lack of balance?
Tulayev: A way to enable for everyone the right to ownership of climate and compensation of damages caused through artificial climate changes. If air pollution or emissions cause such damages, then they should be registered and eventually compensated by the corporations that did not take due diligence to prevent them.
Stop: And what do you offer to accomplish this?
Tulayev: The Claimer.org website, that allows any individual to record claims of damages caused by climate change, so that in the future these damage claims may be litigated.
Stop: How would citizen use that website?
Tulayev: Anyone visiting Claimer.org can fill out a non-exclusive, non-binding online form about damages they have received due to climate change. The organization will combine all those individual claims to eventually take legal action against corporations and demand compensation to those damaged.
Stop: This doesn’t look like a quick solution, does it?
Tulayev: No, of course. It will take years before this model will work. Such claims will not be litigated quickly. However, registering them at Claimer.org increases the chances for citizens to get compensation in the future. Besides, the fact alone that legal claims are amassing against corporations will be a deterrent, that is provide corporations with an incentive not to pollute. Without the collection of these damages, the voice of those affected by climate damages will go unheard, these damages will be paid for by those that did not cause them, and the current broken system of the Emission trading will continue to be the only thing protecting our environment.
Stop: Is Claimer.org the only website to implement this strategy?
Tulayev: No! We hope to spread this idea and encourage other organizations to use the same model to collect other types of environmental damage claims. We also provide a free of charge system to facilitate this type of registration.
Stop: What should other organizations do to set up the same service?
Tulayev: The software that powers Claimer.org is written in PHP and only needs a MySql database and a web server using the PHP Symfony web framework. Soon the software source code will be available for everybody else who wants to use it on their own websites to collect other kinds of environmental damages. Whoever is interested should contact us through the website.