Atmospheric services

John Thornes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The atmosphere is a fundamental component of the Earth System and yet its economic and social value to society, as an essential resource, has largely been taken for granted. Terms such as 'weather services', 'meteorological services' and 'climate services' have existed for some time as part of the commercial and public services offered by national and private meteorological providers. These services are primarily based on providing information about the past, present and future state of the atmosphere rather than its intrinsic properties. The new concept of 'atmospheric services', as proposed in this chapter, relates to the inherent set of natural goods and services provided by the atmosphere that enable life, as we know it, to exist and prosper on planet Earth. Twelve basic atmospheric services have been identified (see Table 1) with a Total Economic Value of between 100 and 1000 times the Gross World Product (GWP). Ecosystem Services have been valued at about twice GWP. This analysis shows that the atmosphere is the most precious and valuable of all natural resources in the Earth System. This chapter attempts to justify the valuation of these atmospheric resources and also infers that the atmosphere should be treated as a global commons, and responsibility for its sustainable management should be shared equally amongst all of society. The atmosphere is fragile and at a time of enhanced climate change it requires very careful management and protection. Indeed, a 'Law of the Atmosphere' may be required, especially at a time when there is rising interest in the possible future need for geo-engineering the climate on a global scale.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEcosystem Services
PublisherRoyal Society of Chemistry
Number of pages35
ISBN (Print)9781849730181
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameIssues in Environmental Science and Technology
ISSN (Print)1350-7583
ISSN (Electronic)1465-1874


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