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What is climate change?
The uncontrolled release of carbon dioxide into the sky is causing the temperature of the atmosphere and oceans to rise. This will produce more frequent and intense storms, droughts, heat waves, floods and fires than we currently endure. Over time, glaciers will melt, sea levels will rise, tropical diseases will spread, and many species will go extinct. For these reasons, climate change is the most serious threat to our security that we face.

What is the Sky Trust?
The Sky Trust would be a non-governmental not-for-profit institution that would manage America's dumping of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

How will it work?
The Sky Trust would sell a gradually diminishing number of carbon emission permits to the approximately 2,000 oil, gas and coal companies that bring fossil fuels into the U.S. economy. With the income from these sales, the Sky Trust would pay equal yearly dividends to every American.

How will this help stop climate change?
The main cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas). The Sky Trust would gradually reduce the number of carbon emission permits to a safe level. As it does this, the price of burning carbon will rise. This will encourage Americans to use less fossil fuel and to invest in alternative energy sources.

Won't this lead to higher prices for gas and electricity?
Yes, it will. But Sky Trust dividends would fully compensate average households for the higher prices. Those who use less fossil fuels would come out ahead. Only high fossil fuel users would come out behind-which is how it should be.

How will my family and I benefit from the Sky Trust?
Every American citizen, including children of any age, would receive a yearly cash dividend from the Sky Trust. A family of four could receive several thousand dollars a year. This income could be used to offset higher energy prices. Or it could be deposited in a tax-deferred Individual Retirement Account or children's savings account.

Has anything like this been done before?
There are two precedents for the Sky Trust. One is the Alaska Permanent Fund, which pays equal annual dividends to all Alaskans based on income from state oil leases. The second is the Acid Rain Program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is gradually reducing U.S. sulfur emissions through a tradeable permit system.

Why is the Sky Trust just for the U.S.?
Climate change is a global problem but every country must find its own way of reducing carbon emissions. The Sky Trust is a market-based mechanism which minimizes bureaucracy and protects consumers. It's therefore an ideal system for the U.S. If it succeeds here other countries can copy it and start their own versions of the Sky Trust.

What do you mean by the "new commons"?
The "new commons" is the set of valuable assets we inherit together, as part of a community, as distinct from assets we inherit individually. It includes the air, water and other natural ecosystems, as well as the broadcast spectrum used by TV and radio stations, scientific knowledge, our cultural heritage, our political and financial institutions, and the Internet. No person or corporation "owns" these assets-they belong to us all. But because our common ownership isn't legally defined, many of them are being overused or appropriated by private interests. New institutions like the Sky Trust would protect the new commons and assure that the valuable assets in it are preserved and shared equitably.

What needs to happen now?
Congress needs to charter the Sky Trust and let it begin operating.

How can I help?
If enough Americans claim their share of the sky and demand a say in how much carbon is dumped into it, Congress will have to act. Be part of the solution. Claim your share of the sky by visiting and encourage your friends and family to do the same!



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Copyright 2001 by Peter Barnes. All rights reserved.
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