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Environmental damage costs $4.8 trillion annually

Environmental damage costs $4.8 trillion annually

Environmental damage costs $4.8 trillion annually
May 29, 2008

Environmental damage and biodiversity loss in forest ecosystems costs 2.1 to 4.8 trillion dollars per year, according to a report released Thursday at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Bonn, Germany.

The report, entitled “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity” and commissioned by the European Union and the German government, attaches a monetary value to services provided by species and ecosystems. The report says these services are often undervalued by humanity.

“Nature provides human society with a vast diversity of benefits such as food, fibres, fuel, clean water, healthy soil, protection from floods, protection from soil erosion, medicines, storing carbon (important in the fight against climate change) and many more,” the report stated. “Though our well being is totally dependent upon these “ecosystem services” they are predominantly public goods with no markets and no prices, so they often are not detected by our current economic compass. As a result, due to the pressures coming from population growth, changing diets, urbanization and also climate change, biodiversity is declining, our ecosystems are being continuously degraded and we, in turn, are suffering the consequences.”

Speaking at an event launching the report, the author Pavan Sukhdev warned that under a “business as usual” scenario, by 2050: 11 percent of the natural areas remaining in 2000 could be lost, mainly as a result of conversion for agriculture, the expansion of infrastructure, and climate change; 40 percent of the land currently under low-impact forms of agriculture could be converted to intensive agricultural use, with further biodiversity losses; and 60 percent of coral reefs could be lost through fishing, pollution, diseases, invasive alien species, and coral bleaching due to climate change.

“We are trying to navigate uncharted and turbulent waters with an old and defective economic compass and that this was affecting our ability to forge a sustainable economy in harmony with nature,” Sukhdev said.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

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