$13 Trillion Lost from Environmental Damage

A report funded by the European Commission tried to generate a preliminary estimate of costs to the global economy from environmental damage. Destruction of ecosystems reduces free services provided by them, such as nutrient cycling, soil viability, freshwater filtering, erosion control, biodiversity, pollination, and so forth. They came up with the figure of almost $14 trillion Euros per year lost due to environmental damage from human activities. That figure is a projection for the year 2050 and is equivalent to seven percent of the world’s GDP for that year, based on estimates.

Human economic prospects are not separate from the environment. Damage to the environment also harms the human community, because our survival depends upon having healthy ecosystems.

One non-European example is overfishing in Mexico that threatened a fishing community and their local marine life. They simply fished to the point of nearly exhausting the natural resource. Scientists helped them understand the ecosystem, and implement a ban which allowed the fish to rebound during a ten year period to over 400% of their population before the ban.

Another example of the value of biodiversity is that the mere presence of about 100-120 wolves in the Yellowstone area generates about $35 million dollars a year from tourism. Yet wolves had their endangered species protections removed and are scheduled to be hunted in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

In Australia the bordering oceans have been valued at $25 billion a year. Destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and other marine ecosystems would cause large declines in revenues from tourism and fishing. Protecting these natural resources will actually probably increase revenues because natural systems are being destroyed and becoming more scarce.

In Yellowstone climate change is already causing the loss of ponds and amphibians. If Yellowstone experiences a loss of animals such as bison, bears or wolves, tourism will likely decline, hurting the regional economy. Such a scenario, which is based in reality, is exactly the opposite of what some politicians say about jobs being lost because of environmental protection.

Of course, for some people the value of the natural world can’t be put into dollars because it is far more important to them than money. However, other people don’t relate to it in the same way, so using dollars as a measure is more accessible – both for common understanding and easier communication.

Image Credit: Staplegunther


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Rose Balcom
Rose Balcom6 years ago

Environmental damage to ecosystems goes beyond money! Money can't buy an extinct animal, bird or amphibian species or repair a mountain side from effects of clear cut logging. We live in such an artifical man-made world we forget what's real!

Bill K.
Bill K6 years ago

it's obvious conservatives don't value the non-economic benefits of nature. but surely they can recognize these financial returns for protecting the environment.

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn6 years ago

policies that care for our environment are better in everyway

Dana W.
Dana W6 years ago

Governments and politicians that accept corporate contributions don't consider that the money they accept is a pittance compared to what it will cost to clean up any environmental damage.

Patrick C.
Patrick Clarke6 years ago

Wheres that Republican scale that shows wealth on one side and the planet on the other. The brainwash about our economy and our ecology being separate entities has long been obviously false.

I doubt this will change any Republican minds though, they are to invested in the dirty industries to give a damn anymore.

Ernie Miller
william M6 years ago

Have these people ever heard of Easter Island? it was ment as a too to teach us how to act but some how people never listen and now er may as well change the name of Earth to Easter planet because soon it will have the same fait.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

They say companies can't afford to clean up their act. I say we can't afford not to.

Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago

morons that come in packages....

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

Human greed is destroying our world.

Carol Fyfe-Wilson

Money talks the loudest.