Azara Blog: Another report looking at the financial costs of "damaging" nature

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Date published: 2009/09/03

The BBC says:

Current climate targets are not enough to save the world's coral reefs - and policymakers urgently need to consider the economic benefits they bring.

Those are two of the conclusions from a UN-backed project aiming to quantify the financial costs of damaging nature.

Studies suggest that reefs are worth more than $100bn (£60bn) annually, but are already being damaged by rising temperatures and more acidic oceans.

The study puts the cost of forest loss each year at $2-5 trillion.

Looking ahead to December's UN climate conference in Copenhagen, study leader Pavan Sukhdev said it was vital that policymakers realised that safeguarding the natural world was a cost-effective way of protecting societies against the impacts of rising greenhouse gas levels.

This project was set up with the express purpose of making these grandiose claims. So-called conservationists have been making the same claims for years, but nobody has paid any attention to them so they obviously thought they would do better if they could get some UN-backed project and some rich banker to make the same claims (cf. the British government and Stern). But it's not obvious that their sums are correct or even believable.

And they do not address the fundamental problem, which is that there are more and more people on the planet and the general consensus is that most people are too poor, not too rich, so the general goal is for the per capita consumption to increase, not decrease. These two factors together mean that other species (including coral reefs and forests) are going to suffer as a result. And eventually humans might well suffer too, at which point the human population will also decrease.

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