International Organizations and Environmental Policy

By Robert V. Bartlett; Priya A. Kurian et al. | Go to book overview

domain, and it is in the interests of their creators to have them disseminated and publicized as widely as possible.

As a purveyor of international public goods, what distinguishes WMO from other organizations that have not been as successful? A problem commonly encountered by organizations established to facilitate collective action is an unwillingness of the membership to pay the cost of providing public goods. If the public goods can be used by all regardless of whether they contribute to their creation, users may be tempted to become "free riders" benefiting from the good that is provided by others. Under some circumstances, what a free rider saves by not paying its share for a public good may give it a competitive advantage over the parties that do ( Ophuls and Boyan, 1992:196-97).

There are several reasons why WMO programs have not been hampered by free riders. First, WMO's public goods do not require significant additional sacrifices by its members. Collecting weather data is not a major expense, especially in view of the availability of technologies for automated weather stations, and this is something that modern states would be doing anyway. For most states, the cost of making meteorological observations according to internationally specified standards and procedures is marginal. For states lacking the instruments and the expertise to be full partners ill generating weather data, WMO has established technical assistance and education and training programs, which also make possible more effective use of its various meteorological services ( Davies, 1990:111-31).

Second, the advanced members with highly developed meteorological services have been willing to provide a disproportionate share of the resources necessary for WMO's public goods. They have done this not only because they have a strong stake in anticipating weather throughout much of the world, but also because of the desire of their large scientific communities to learn about the global dynamics of climate and the atmosphere. Thus, expanding the breadth of geographical coverage of weather stations around the world has been a high enough priority for them to be willing to absorb much of the cost of upgrading the meteorological capacities of poorer states that would not otherwise be able to participate in WMO monitoring networks. For the same reasons, the technologically advanced states have been willing to take the lead and provide the lion's share of the resources needed for WMO's research programs.


CONCLUSIONS

WMO is widely recognized as a highly effective international organization within the domain of its relatively narrow scientific mission of monitoring and conducting research on weather, climate, and the atmosphere. The foreboding prospects of depletion of the ozone layer and global warming due to the impact of human pollutants on atmospheric chemistry have added much to the demands

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