Azara Blog: Another review of biodiversity is made

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Date published: 2008/05/29

The BBC says:

Damage to forests, rivers, marine life and other aspects of nature could halve living standards for the world's poor, a major report has concluded.

Current rates of natural decline might reduce global GDP by about 7% by 2050.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) review is modelled on the Stern Review of climate change.

It will be released at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Bonn, where 60 leaders have pledged to halt deforestation by 2020.
The document to be released at the CBD is an interim report into what the team acknowledges are complex, difficult and under-researched issues.

The 7% figure is largely based on loss of forests. The report will acknowledge that the costs of losing some ecosystems have barely been quantified.

The trends are understood well enough - a 50% shrinkage of wetlands over the past 100 years, a rate of species loss between 100 and 1,000 times the rate that would occur without 6.5 billion humans on the planet, a sharp decline in ocean fish stocks and one third of coral reefs damaged.

However, putting a monetary value on them is probably much more difficult, the team acknowledges, than putting a cost on climate change.

It's always interesting to see these kinds of calculations but they are by their very nature incomplete and imprecise, so in particular backed up with poor data resulting in huge error bars. And of course these kinds of reports always result in the people producing them telling us that it is the poor of the world who do worse when things go wrong. What a surprise, who would have thought it. But it is not only rather partronising to the citizens of the poor world, it is short-sighted because it ignores the citizens of the rich world. Governments of the world are elected to make their own citizens better off, not the citizens of the rest of the world. Unless ordinary citizens of rich countries see that things are being done to make their own situation better and not worse, the academic middle class people who produce these reports are asking to be ignored.

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