Putting a value on environmental change

May 29, 2014
Credit: undergroundb on flickr.

The value of the global environment to human well-being, health and livelihoods fell by around US$20 trillion (A$21.5 trillion) a year between 1997 and 2011 due to loss of wetlands, coral reefs and tropical forests, a new study from a team of international researchers has found.

The study, published in Global Environmental Change, found the total value of global in 2011 was US$124.8 trillion (A$134 trillion) a year, down from $US145 trillion a year in 1997. That compares to global GDP of just $US75.2 trillion in 2011.

Global ecosystem services measure the value of ecological systems to human well-being, on top of the usual economic measures contained in (GDP) figures.

"Nature is not just a pretty place. Nature is a large and important part of the real economy which adds to human well-being," said lead author Professor Robert Costanza, from Crawford School of Public Policy.

The report is the first time scientists and economists have put a dollar value on the loss of global ecosystem services, highlighting the need for policymakers to take a closer look at issues affecting .

"It allows us to build a more comprehensive and balanced picture of the assets that support human well-being and human's interdependence with the well-being of all life on the planet," Professor Costanza said.

He said Australia's ecosystem services were estimated to be worth around US$5 trillion ($5.4 trillion) a year, compared to GDP of around US$1.5 trillion.

The drop in the global value was partly due to the loss of and wetlands around the world, and loss of coral reefs.

The report found the global area of tropical forest had declined by 642 million hectares between 1997 and 2011, while deserts had grown by 234 million hectares.

It found have gradually been turned into and algae beds. The area of ocean coral has shrunk by 34 million hectares, while sea grass and algae beds had grown by the same amount between 1997 and 2011.

It found the global area of wetlands has shrunk by 14 million hectares.

"We are losing wetlands as they are converted into farmlands, urban and other uses" Professor Costanza said.

Explore further: Time to dethrone GDP as a measure of national success, researcher says

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sea of the living dead

Sep 26, 2012

(Phys.org)—The world's coral reefs have become a zombie ecosystem, neither dead nor truly alive, and are on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation according to an academic from The Australian ...

How much is nature worth?

Nov 13, 2009

How much is nature worth? £1 billion? £100 billion? £1 trillion? The loss of our forests and biodiversity in general could cost us between £1.2-2.8 trillion a year, according to Pavan Sukhdev, who is giving ...

Recommended for you

Obama readies climate change push at UN summit

2 hours ago

President Barack Obama will seek to galvanize international support in the fight against climate change on Tuesday when he addresses the United Nations, with time running out on his hopes of leaving a lasting ...

New toxic spill traced to Mexico mine

3 hours ago

Civil protection authorities have confirmed new toxic spills in northwestern Mexico, where a massive acid spill from a copper mine contaminated waterways.

World greenhouse emissions threaten warming goal

17 hours ago

Emissions of greenhouse gases are rising so fast that within one generation the world will have used up its margin of safety for limiting global warming to 2°C (3.6°F), an international team of scientists ...

Tens of thousands join London climate march

18 hours ago

Tens of thousands of people in London joined a global day of protest Sunday to demand action on climate change, among them British actress Emma Thompson who said the challenge to save the planet was like ...

User comments : 0