Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sucks To Be a Have Not!

Forget the rich, the poor just keep getting poorer. Now the world's poorest people are facing another kick in their collective ass - a major drop in their already meagre living standards caused by the ongoing collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity. From BBC News:

Damage to forests, rivers, marine life and other aspects of nature could halve living standards for the world's poor, a major report has concluded.

Current rates of natural decline might reduce global GDP by about 7% by 2050.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) review is modelled on the Stern Review of climate change.

"You come up with answers like 6% or 8% of global GDP when you think about the benefits of intact ecosystems, for example in controlling water, controlling floods and droughts, the flow of nutrients from forest to field," said the project's leader Pavan Sukhdev.

"But then you realise that the major beneficiaries [of nature] are the billion and a half of the world's poor; these natural systems account for as much as 40%-50% of what we define as the 'GDP of the poor'," he told BBC News.

The TEEB review was set up by the German government and the European Commission during the German G8 presidency.

The two institutions selected Mr Sukhdev, a managing director in the global markets division at Deutsche Bank, to lead it.

The trends are understood well enough - a 50% shrinkage of wetlands over the past 100 years, a rate of species loss between 100 and 1,000 times the rate that would occur without 6.5 billion humans on the planet, a sharp decline in ocean fish stocks and one third of coral reefs damaged.

However, putting a monetary value on them is probably much more difficult, the team acknowledges, than putting a cost on climate change.

The report highlights some of the planet's ecologically damaged zones such as Haiti, where heavy deforestation - largely caused by the poor as they cut wood to sell for cash - means soil is washed away and the ground much less productive.

An early draft of the TEEB review, seen by BBC News, concluded: "Lessons from the last 100 years demonstrate that mankind has usually acted too little and too late in the face of similar threats - asbestos, CFCs, acid rain, declining fisheries, BSE and - most recently - climate change".

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