How much does the loss of biodiversity cost? A lot more than most people realize. In fact, we do nothing to address the issue, the coming ‘nature crunch‘ will make the current financial crisis seem like a cake walk.
This is nothing. Well, nothing by comparison to what’s coming. The financial crisis for which we must now pay so heavily prefigures the real collapse, when humanity bumps against its ecological limits.
As we goggle at the fluttering financial figures, a different set of numbers passes us by. On Friday [October 10], Pavan Sukhdev, the Deutsche Bank economist leading a European study on ecosystems, reported that we are losing natural capital worth between $2 trillion and $5 trillion every year, as a result of deforestation alone. The losses incurred so far by the financial sector amount to between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion. Sukhdev arrived at his figure by estimating the value of the services – such as locking up carbon and providing freshwater – that forests perform, and calculating the cost of either replacing them or living without them. The credit crunch is petty when compared to the nature crunch.
The sooner we learn face up to some hard truths regarding the environment, the sooner we will be able to advance policy to correct the problem. But if we continue ignoring the cost of environmental degradation, we will all come to yearn for the days when our biggest worry was a collapsing stock market.