Time to tap climate-change-combating potential of the world's ecosystems

September 2, 2009
This is the cover of the Climate Issue Paper, September 2009. Credit: TEEB Media and Communications

Investing in restoration and maintenance of the Earth's multi-trillion dollar ecosystems - from forests and mangroves to wetlands and river basins - can have a key role in countering climate change and climate-proofing vulnerable economies.

This is among the central findings of a new climate issues update by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a project launched by Germany and the European Commission in response to a proposal by the G8+5 Environment Ministers (Potsdam, Germany 2007) to develop a global study on the economics of biodiversity loss. The study is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme. The issues update was launched today by TEEB study leader Pavan Sukhdev, with German Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel; Director-General for Environment, European Commission, Karl Falkenberg; and UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner.

It says the planet's biological diversity and 'ecological infrastructure' are increasingly being put at risk from the impact of climbing greenhouse gases.

Yet natural systems represent one of the biggest untapped allies against the greatest challenge of this generation, says the paper, part of a stream of work towards a final study in 2010.

Pump-Priming Nature's Mitigation and Adaptation Engine

The update underlines that an agreement on funding for forests is a key priority for governments attending the crucial United Nations climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in December.

An estimated 5 gigatonnes or 15 per cent of worldwide - the principal greenhouse gas - are being absorbed or 'sequestrated' by forests every year, making them the "mitigation engine" of the natural world. This could also be described as 'green carbon'.

Investing in ecosystem-based measures such as financing Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) could thus not only assist in combating but could also be a key anti-poverty and adaptation measure.

Forests also provide services such as freshwaters, soil stabilization, nutrients for agriculture, eco-tourism opportunities and food, fuel and fibre — all of which will be key to buffering vulnerable communities against the climate change already underway.

TEEB is urging governments to factor these wider benefits into a forest carbon finance package in order to maximize the return of an agreement in Copenhagen into the future. This might pave the way for a new, Green Economy in the 21st century where natural or nature-based assets become part of mainstream economic and policy planning.

The TEEB climate issues update says that governments can already take steps to include ecosystem services in their national accounts in order to "measure what they manage". In support of this, it suggests that an upgrading of the United Nations' 2003 handbook on Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting be carried out to include forest carbon.

While the precise level of investment needed to maintain and enhance carbon storage and adaptation services of ecosystems in a climate-challenged world is unknown, TEEB findings indicate that investing in the Earth's ecological infrastructure has the potential to offer an excellent rate of return.

For example an investment of $45 billion in protected areas alone could secure nature-based services worth some $5 trillion a year.

Coral Reef Emergency: An Ecosystem on a Climatic Knife-Edge

Meanwhile the update highlights some of the consequences if governments fail to rise to the climate change challenge and seal an ambitious deal in Copenhagen.

It underlines a 'Coral Reef Emergency' that is already here as a result of the current build-up of greenhouse gases.

Scientists contributing to the TEEB process indicate that irreversible damage to coral reefs can occur at atmospheric CO2 concentrations of over 350 parts per million (ppm). This is linked with rising temperatures but also ocean acidification. Concentrations are already above this threshold and rising. It raises concerns that stabilizing CO2 levels at 450 ppm, or some 16 per cent above the current levels, may condemn this critical, multi-billion dollar ecosystem to extinction and take with it the livelihoods of 500 million people within a matter of decades.

Pavan Sukhdev, TEEB's study leader who is on secondment from Deutsche Bank, said the loss of the world's coral reefs would undermine one of nature's most productive assets and one that has a key role to play in coastal defense against a predicted rise in storm surges and other extreme weather events due to global warming.

"The ecosystem services from coral reefs - ranging from coastal defense to fish nurseries - are worth up to USD$170 billion annually; an estimated half a billion people depend on them for livelihoods and more than a quarter of all marine fish species are dependent on coral reefs".

"The climate stabilization goals of many governments may prove sufficient for some ecosystems and some biodiversity but there is now a real question mark against the survival of coral reefs world-wide and their natural treasure troves," he added.

"The economic consequences are significant, but so are the social and humanitarian ones. It underlines that a simple cost-benefit analysis alone will fail to capture the ethical dimensions of international climate policy decisions now and in the coming years and decades -especially in respect to an ecosystem at a climatic tipping point," said Mr Sukhdev, who also heads up the Green Economy initiative of the UN Environment Programme.

Mr Gabriel said: "Human vulnerability to the harmful impacts of global climate change is significantly increased by the loss of biodiversity. TEEB proves that the protection and restoration of ecological infrastructure is a cost effective means to mitigate global climate change and its effects. To me, ecological restoration is a critical tool in addressing global climate change, enhancing the extent and functioning of carbon sinks as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. What we now need is a breakthrough in Copenhagen. We have to recognize that enhancing the resilience of ecosystems and maintaining the planet's biodiversity are key parts of the mitigation and the adaptation agendas."

Mr Falkenberg said: "These TEEB findings demonstrate that climate change and biodiversity loss must be tackled together. They lend further support to the EU's goal of achieving a concrete and ambitious agreement in Copenhagen that comprises both reductions in the world's emissions and the creation of global mechanisms to stop tropical deforestation. Quite simply, we will not manage to halt biodiversity loss if we do not mitigate climate change. And we will not be able to mitigate and adapt to climate change if we do not protect our valuable ecosystems and biodiversity."

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, said:
"It is clearly emerging that investments in the planet's ecosystem infrastructure can deliver the twin, Green Economy gains of curbing and cutting emissions while assisting vulnerable communities to adapt."

"Currently governments are considering multi-billion dollar investments in carbon capture and storage at power stations. Perhaps it is time to subject this to a full cost benefit analysis to see whether the technological option matches nature's ability to capture and store carbon - a natural system that has been perfected over millions of years and with the multiple additional benefits for water supplies up to reversing the rate of biodiversity loss," he added.

Source: Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres (news : web)

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1 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2009
First off, carbon dioxide is NOT the principal greenhouse gas, and this should be common knowledge from all the information available to the public.

The unstated goal of NGOs like TEEB and the UN is to monetize carbon dioxide and use it as the foundation for a global economic system.

The reason for using carbon dioxide is remarkably clever and subtle, and it is because carbon dioxide is ubiquitous to all human industry and activity, more so than any other emission. After a long media campaign to associate carbon dioxide with terrible climate change, we finally understand why such shaky science was pushed so hard.

We are left to deduce the strategy of these groups from their statements, which fortunately are quite extensive. They consistently attempt to make wealth redistribution a function of ecology, which is an inappropriate injection of ideology into a field of scientific inquiry. Other social causes like population control and international banking in the third world are absurdly attached to climatology, which can only be a clumsy attempt to hijack science for the pet ideologies of an academic minority. These people really have no business in government and their attempts to gain influence in governments and economic systems is quite obvious.

When you consider the greens calling for de-industrializing the West and the concurrent redistribution of manufacturing to slave-state economies, the prospect of creating AGW superprojects to insure continual government expenditures and heavy taxation becomes frighteningly real.

The involvement of international banking in carbon monetization makes perfect sense when you connect these themes together. Monetizing carbon will enable banks to create an entirely new currency base out of less than nothing, (actually, they've been doing it for over 100 years with central banking), and by hyping ridiculous but hugely expensive climate engineering boondoggles they are guaranteed a constant profit from both the carbon trade and government borrowing to fund the projects, even while first world productivity declines.

The more you learn about this, the clearer it becomes.
not rated yet Sep 03, 2009
Alot of this is pretty decent Arkaleus. However I'd like to point out some things...

When you consider the greens calling for de-industrializing the West and the concurrent redistribution of manufacturing to slave-state economies, the prospect of creating AGW superprojects to insure continual government expenditures and heavy taxation becomes frighteningly real.

America, at least, has already diverged from a manufacturing industry economy and has been reaping the benefits of slave-state economies for arguably over a century, while suppressing those nations own national economies. Don't try and pin that on "the greens" that's ignorant and a misrepresentation of facts, and I don't think you're ignorant so why are you trying to misrepresent facts?

It seems to me you're refusing to acknowledge the actual and fundamental perpetrator of these ideologies (wealth redistribution, population control, international and central banking, everything you're siting as being wrong) which have been going on for decades before the green movement became mainstream, which is just straight up federal governments. National governments should essentially be non-profit entities, with no other purpose than to protect it's nations people. But that severely limits the earning potential of those who govern. And that's why we see the economy of government we see today. An entity which has no product but takes 20% of peoples paychecks.
1 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2009
Good point - I'll develop my argument more.

You are right to point out the difference between greenism's goals of deconstructing the first world and de-industrialization of the West from the efforts of the Trilateralists, IMF, World Bank, and corporations seeking quick profits from cheap overseas labor.

What I should have said is these two trends would make for a dangerous convergence and we should vigorously resist both.

My point was that if these two trends do converge and we found ourselves with essentially no domestic industrial capacity and hamstrung by an oppressive "green" statism, I forsee banking cartels (who must constantly generate capital to survive) uniting with governments to insure profits by twisting ecology into economic boondoggles - with disastrous consequences for all of us.

Without any industry to maintain the wealth of the people, the only occupations left to our government/corporations (merged already?) would be warfare abroad and stealing from their own people.
not rated yet Sep 04, 2009
My point was that if these two trends do converge and we found ourselves with essentially no domestic industrial capacity and hamstrung by an oppressive "green" statism, I forsee banking cartels (who must constantly generate capital to survive) uniting with governments to insure profits by twisting ecology into economic boondoggles - with disastrous consequences for all of us.

I guess I take exception to, at least, my perception of you lumping the Green movement in with the desire to deconstruct the West. I consider myself an avid environmentalist/conservationist and even a proponent of the Green movement, but I (and I think most eco-conscious people) want to certainly maintain current standards of living and also develop our infrastructure and economy to allow for sustainable, healthy economic and technological growth (you yourself acknowledged the nature of our historical growth is not good for the People or sustainable), and to return America to being a true, respectable world leader.

I'm not a proponent of carbon controls or population control or AGW, these things prevent healthy economies and growth. And I think most "green" people are not either, they just aren't told that there's other, better ways to be green than how the government has twisted environmentalism to what we see today.

I totally agree "green-statism" is extremely dangerous, just as in any case where the government over steps it's bounds, and also I think there are already banking cartels in bed with the government, who are both trying to hamstring the People from ever getting out of debt and/or from being able to operate their live independent of legislation and from being truly as free as people can be.

But the government has taken up the almost unassailable mantel of environmentalism and perverted it (as it did religion in medieval times), I would like to see your rhetoric changed to differentiate true environmentalism, as your other posts seem to indicate you yourself are for (sustainable growth and economy), if you agree with what I'm saying. And if you don't agree now, I hope through our dialogue I can show you that one can be Green and a proponent of progress.
not rated yet Sep 06, 2009
First off, carbon dioxide is NOT the principal greenhouse gas, and this should be common knowledge from all the information available to the public.

That's a pretty sad attempt at obfuscation.

Without greenhouse gases the Earth would be a frozen hellscape with an average temperature of -18 degrees celsius(0 degrees F). That's a big lever, CO2 doesn't need to be as effective as water vapour to cause serious problems.

Water vapour has a short residence time and does not accumulate in the atmosphere like CO2 does. If there's too much water vapour at a given temperature you get clouds and percipitation; if there's too little you get evaporation. It closely follows temperature; this makes it a feedback mechanism rather than a forcing.

There is no conspiracy to supress water vapours effectiveness as a greenhouse gas, it's just not very relevant.

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