Commodifying the atmosphere: Pennies from heaven

John Thornes, S Randalls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Citations (Scopus)


The atmosphere may be the most valuable resource on Earth and is worth orders of magnitude more to society than it costs as a hazard, However, the atmosphere, and information about the atmosphere, are increasingly being transformed from being considered as part of a global commons to being conceived of as a global commodity to be bought and sold. There are three basic types of atmospheric commodity: firstly, the material atmosphere itself; secondly, the physical properties of the atmosphere; and thirdly, data or information or predictions about the atmosphere. The global expenditure on national meteorological and climatological services and research has now been surpassed by the value of new economic instruments such as weather derivatives and climate emissions trading. Atmospheric scientists, climatologists and physical geographers need to be critically aware of what the consequences, both positive and negative, of these developments for science and society might be. This is particularly the case as climate change is increasingly providing new discourses for companies and governments to exploit as the atmosphere becomes a tradable green resource. This paper attempts to construct an initial critical framework of analysis drawing from broader literatures on the commodification of nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-285
Number of pages13
JournalGeografiska Annaler Series A Physical Geography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


  • emissions trading
  • commodification
  • cultural climatology
  • climate discourses
  • weather derivatives


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