New Report Shows U.S. Is The Biggest Loser As Nature Declines

A new World Wildlife Fund report entitled “Global Futures” released yesterday calculated the economic cost of nature’s decline across 140 countries ranging from India to Brazil, and it shows that if the world carries on with “business as usual” or BAU, the United States would take the biggest hit against its annual GDP in absolute terms, with an $83 billion reduction to its economy each year by 2050.   However, according to the study results, if the world adopts a more sustainable development pathway and safeguards areas that are important for biodiversity and ecosystem services, then annual global GDP would be 0.02% higher (US$ 11 billion) by 2050, generating an annual net gain of US$ 490 billion per year compared to the BAU scenario.

Why This Matters:  The myth that conservation is a drag on our economy is proven wrong again.  We can conserve our natural world and find ways to use its resources sustainably, and if we do, we actually come out ahead financially.  Or we continue on the path we are on now, and forests disappear, pollinators vanish, biodiversity collapses and rivers and the ocean are depleted, which will lead to disastrous outcomes and losses. We need governments and corporations to halt nature loss before its too late for the health, welfare, and prosperity of our children and grandchildren.  It can be hard for people to understand that our collective failure to conserve the natural environment has negative economic consequences — and to see those consequences projected on a country by country basis.  The report brings the negative impacts of the loss of natural resources and biodiversity into a very sharp focus and why the effort to conserve 30% of the planet by 2030 will pay off if only we can achieve it.

The Biggest Losers, By The Numbers

The Global Futures study, which was co-authored by the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University and the Global Trade and Analysis Project at Purdue University, predicts annual global losses by 2050 from various climate impacts:

  • $327 billion from damaged protections from flooding, storm surges and erosion due to changes in vegetation along coastlines and sea-level rises
  • $128 billion from loss of carbon storage which protects against climate change
  • $15 billion from lost habitats for bees and other pollinating insects
  • $19 billion from reduced water availability for agriculture
  • $7.5 billion from lost forests and forest ecosystem services 

And the study shows which countries stand to lose the most — behind, the U.S., the next five biggest losers in terms of actual loss of annual national GDP (billions) under a BAU scenario by 2050:

1)    United States of America (-$83)
2)    Japan (-$80)
3)    United Kingdom (-$21)
4)    India (-$20)
5)    Australia (-$20)
6)    Brazil (-$14)

Steve Polasky, Co-Founder of the Natural Capital Project explained the significance of the findings, saying The world’s economies, businesses and our own well-being all depend on nature. But from climate change, extreme weather and flooding to water shortages, soil erosion and species extinctions, evidence shows that our planet is changing faster than at any other time in history. The way we feed, fuel and finance ourselves is destroying the life-support systems on which we depend, risking global economic devastation.”

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