The cost impact of threats to the ocean environment could be
as high as a trillion dollars.
GLOBE-Net, March 28, 2012- Film director James
Cameron's recent solo descent into the world's deepest ocean trench
may well have been a dive into history. Along with collecting rock
samples and video, his journey into the abyss shone a light on the
world's oceans and ocean science and research.
Seventy percent of the planet is covered in vast oceans,
generating more than 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe and
helping to cushion the blow of climate change by absorbing carbon
emissions and much of the heat added to the global system.
But a new study from the Stockholm Environment Institute says while the
sheer size of our oceans have led most people to believe them to be
unassailable, this is far from the truth according to the study "Valuing the Ocean Environment: Economic
Rather than being 'too big to fail', the report's authors say
"the ocean is not immune to the destructive capacity of
anthropogenic climate change and, more broadly, global
environmental change. Its capacities are being stretched and some
of the vital services it provides to humankind are seriously
The study says the true worth of oceans' services and
ecosystems, including food security, storm protection and carbon
absorption are not being factored into our policy frameworks.
The report says these can and should be assigned monetary values
which can then be integrated and prioritised within the broader
picture of global social, environmental and economic policy and
accounted for in future planning.
With many countries facing difficult economic times, the
importance of ocean protection has dropped on the political
agenda. The report authors argue that on the contrary, a
radical shift in the way we view and value oceans are
Stressors such as overfishing and coral
bleaching are well known, but there are other less visible threats,
such as acidification, hypoxia (deoxygenation), sea level rise,
pollution and ocean warming.
So too there is a poor understanding of the interaction and
overlapping of ocean ecosystems and how they impact coastal
communities and economies.
The study fits together all the pieces in a chapter that
examines the multiple stressors and their policy implications. The
report then puts a monetary value on the avoidable portion of
future global environmental change in the marine domain.
The avoidable portion is described as "the distance between our
hopes and our fears. Our hopes are represented by a 'low emissions,
low climate impacts' future, our fears by a 'high emissions, high
climate impacts' future".
Impacts are estimated for five areas of the ocean that are
suffering damage that can be meaningfully priced, and as the report
notes, the cost of inaction is high.
"By 2050, the value of these important climate impacts is
estimated to be more than four times higher under a high emissions,
high impact scenario. By 2100, the cost of damage if we follow the
high emission pathway rises to US$ 1,980 billion, equivalent to
0.37 percent of global GDP," says the report.
The difference between the two scenarios, or the amount that can
be saved by lowering emissions, is US$ 1,367 billion; that is more
than a trillion dollars per year by 2100, equivalent to 0.25
percent of GDP.
That trillion dollar amount is what the report authors say
policy makers should take particular note. As decisions are being
made now, government's should take into account oceanic impacts,
which in the long term could mean massive savings - or if ignored,
"yet another cost of inaction".
Please see a related GLOBE-Net article on placing
monetary values on trees, grass and air.
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