The Economics Of Biodiversity & Nature-Based Solutions

Putting Biodiversity into Economics

A major new review looking at the economics of biodiversity considers putting biodiversity at the centre of economics and brings together economics and ecology. This will have many benefits for nature and, in turn, us benefitting from that nature. The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review has more than 600 pages and sets out a way forward to put nature, which we are entirely dependent on, back into the equation of our economic system. Since the industrial revolution we have lost that connection with nature to the point it is likely to cause an existential crisis for humans. There has been a huge growth in world GDP and population since around 1820 because of the industrial revolution. Problems that have been exacerbated with this growth include impacts on the biosphere and the climate to name two. The Dasgupta Review highlights human’s place in and as part of nature, and not separate to it or above it.

The contemporary and widespread practice of using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to judge economic performance is based on a faulty application of economics. GDP is a flow (so many market dollars of output per year), in contrast to inclusive wealth, which is a stock (it is the social worth of the economy’s entire portfolio of assets). GDP does not include the depreciation of assets, for example the degradation of the natural environment (the ‘G’ in GDP represents gross output of final goods and services, not output net of depreciation of assets). GDP is indispensable in short-run macroeconomic analysis and management, but it is not suitable for appraising investment projects and identifying sustainable development. GDP was not intended to be used for those two purposes. An economy could record a high rate of growth of GDP by depreciating its assets, but one would not know that from national statistics. In recent decades, the erosion of natural capital has been precisely the means the world economy has deployed for enjoying what is routinely celebrated as ‘economic growth’. Adam Smith, the founding father of economics, wrote The Wealth of Nations; it was not the GDP of nations. The idea of wealth is far richer than the one Adam Smith was able to fashion, but his identification of assets as the objects of interest was exactly correct.

Nature is in large measure mobile. Insects and birds fly, fish swim, the wind blows, rivers flow, and the oceans circulate for example. Economists have long realised that Nature’s mobility is one reason the citizen investor will not take the market prices of natural capital to represent their social worth even when markets for them exist. The Dasgupta Review studies the divide between the prices we pay for Nature’s goods and services and their social worth (or “accounting prices”) in terms of what economists call “externalities”. A rich and extensive literature has identified the measures that can be deployed (the forces of the law and social norms) for closing that divide. The presence of the divide is why the citizen investor will insist that companies disclose activities along their entire supply chain. Disclosure serves to substitute for imperfect markets. We are now beginning to see more of these disclosures in company accounts and sustainability policies for example.

The excess of impact (I) over the biosphere’s regenerative rate (G), is known as the Impact Inequality in the Dasgupta Review. This impact equation needs to bring about balance between I and G at a healthy stock (S) of the biosphere which is defined here as sustainable development.

The review has three main sections: Part 1 – Foundations, Part 2 – Extensions and Part 3 – The Road Ahead. There are 21 chapters with chapters 1-13 covering the foundations, chapters 14-20 looking at the extensions and the final chapter considering the road ahead. Unusually, there is a chapter 0, which is entitled How we got to where we are. It considers economic history “since year 0” and seeks to understand humanity’s contemporary overshoot. The changes will be hard and need to have engagement from government, business, communities and civil societies across the world.

  1. Nature as an Asset
  2. Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services
  3. Biospheric Disruptors
  4. Human Impact on the Biosphere, 4* The Bounded Global Economy
  5. Risk & Uncertainty
  6. Laws and Norms as Social Institutions
  7. Human Institutions & Ecological Systems 1, Unidirectional Externalities & Regulatory Policies
  8. Human Institutions & Ecological Systems 2, Common Pool Resources, 8* Management of Common Pool Resources: A Formal Model
  9. Human Institutions & Ecological Systems 3, Consumption Practices and Reproductive Behaviour
  10. Well-Being Across the Generations
  11. The Content of Well-Being: Empirics
  12. Valuing Biodiversity
  13. Sustainability Assessment and Policy Analysis, 13* Accounting Prices and Inclusive Wealth
  14. Distribution and Sustainability
  15. Trade and the Biosphere
  16. Demand for Provisioning Services and Its Consequences
  17. Managing Nature-Related Financial Risk & Uncertainty
  18. Conservation of Nature
  19. Restoration of Nature
  20. Finance for Sustainable Engagement with Nature
  21. Options for Change

There is much to take from this report but options for change notes that in order to pursue a sustainable future requires a transformative change. This is in our mode of thinking and, importantly, in our actions that we take. COVID-19 has forced transformative changes on our daily lives. We have had warnings of biodiversity loss in contrast to the lack of time to plan for this global pandemic. The extent to which biosphere has been degraded by human activity has created extreme risks and uncertainties. It has endangered our economies and livelihoods and given rise to existential risks for humanity. Causes of biodiversity loss are varied. In order to effect transformative change requires action by governments, but also by businesses, intergovernmental organisations and communities. Local conditions need to be addressed to resolve environmental problems: socio-ecological conditions need to be taken into account.

The summary highlights a number of solutions to our problems such as using natural capital accounting, conservation and restoration of natural assets, improved productivity of extraction from nature and improved recycling and having a global financial system that supports nature for example. These solutions fall into three categories: balancing the impact equation and increase nature’s supply, change the measure of economic success and, thirdly, transformation of institutions and systems.

Economies need to change so there is a shift away from GDP to a system that takes into account the externalities that include natural capital. Since the industrial revolution we have drawn down our natural capital to the point that we have overshot its regenerative rate of replacement. The message from the review is clear – we need to account for biodiversity and nature. There is a clear way to make the changes needed that will benefit the whole of humanity and reverse declines in the biosphere.

Dasgupta, P. (2021), The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review. (London: HM Treasury)

Nature-Based Solutions For Adapting To Climate Change

The European Environment Agency (EEA) emphasise that nature-based solutions should play a key role in climate change. Biodiversity loss, degradation of ecosystems and climate change are linked. They all have devastating consequences for our economic and social stability, health and well-being. Working with nature is increasingly recognised as an efficient way to tackle these growing challenges, according this new EEA report ‘Nature-based solutions in Europe: Policy, knowledge and practice for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.’

Nature-based solutions are shown to benefit society from climate change impacts and slow further warming. Many established approaches exist such as ecosystem approaches, sustainable management and sustainable forest management and natural water retention methods. The mapping of new or restorative nature-based solutions can help to identify areas based upon the desired services. By focusing on the solutions a discussion can help plan and balance biodiversity and climate change impacts. A wide stakeholder involvement is key to success.


Nature-based solutions are being adopted as a way to tackle climate change and offer benefits to us through use of ecosystem services. Changing accounting policies to consider impacts on the environment will alter the existing discourse which has overlooked nature either intentionally, or not, leading to its destruction and pollution. Natural capital should be valued and accounted for as it ultimately benefits us. These two reviews offer insights and solutions to doing so.

Posted in ACD, Climate Solutions, Economic Crisis, Europe, Mapping, Population, Resources, Sustainable Development | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ocean & Cryosphere In A Changing Climate (IPCC Report)


In September 2019 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the third of its special reports entitled “The Ocean & Cryosphere In A Changing Climate”. This is a review of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) which outlines the key findings of the report.

It has three sections:

  • Section A: Observed Changes and Impacts.
  • Section B: Projected Changes and Risks.
  • Section C: Implementing Responses to Ocean and Cryosphere Change.

The Ocean covers over 70% of the world’s area and the cryosphere is the area of the planet covered by ice: currently around 10% of the land surface area is covered by ice or glaciers. Human communities with a close connection with coastal environments, small islands (including Small Island Developing States, SIDS), polar areas and high mountains are particularly exposed to ocean and cryosphere change, such as sea level rise, extreme sea level and shrinking cryosphere. Other communities further from the coast are also exposed to changes in the ocean, such as through extreme weather events.

Observed Changes

Section A covers the observed changes, which are confirmed through confidence level statements from very high confidence through to low confidence statements. Over the last decades the cryosphere with melting ice sheets and glaciers, reduced snow cover, and reduced Arctic sea ice and thickness.

Ice sheets and glaciers worldwide have lost mass (very high confidence). Between 2006 and 2015, the Greenland Ice Sheet lost ice mass at an average rate of 278 ± 11 Gtyr–1 (equivalent to 0.77 ± 0.03 mm yr–1 of global sea level rise), mostly due to surface melting. During the period 2006–2015, the Antarctic Ice Sheet lost mass at an average rate of 155 ± 19 Gtyr–1 (0.43 ± 0.05 mm yr–1), mostly due to rapid thinning and retreat of major outlet glaciers draining the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Glaciers worldwide outside Greenland and Antarctica lost mass at an average rate of 220 ± 30 Gt yr–1(equivalent to 0.61±0.08 mm yr–1sea level rise) in 2006–2015. Arctic June snow cover extent on land declined by 13.4 ± 5.4% per decade from 1967 to 2018, a total loss of approximately 2.5 million km2, predominantly due to surface air temperature increase. Depth, extent and duration of snow has declined over recent decades. Permafrost temperatures have increased to record high levels (1980s-present) (very high confidence) including the recent increase by 0.29°C ±0.12°C from 2007 to 2016 averaged across polar and high-mountain regions globally.

Between 1979 and 2018, Arctic sea ice extent has very likely decreased for all months of the year. September sea ice reductions are very likely 12.8 ±2.3% per decade. These sea ice changes in September are likely unprecedented for at least 1000 years. Arctic sea ice has thinned, concurrent with a transition to younger ice: between 1979 and 2018, the areal proportion of multi-year ice at least five years old has declined by approximately 90%. There has been an amplified warming in the Arctic where higher air temperatures have contributed to further warming.

The global ocean has had a period of unabated warming since 1970 and has taken up 90% of the excess heat in the atmosphere. Since 1993 the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled. There have been more marine heatwaves since 1982 to the point that they have more than likely doubled. The warming has varied across the world with the Southern Ocean accounting for 35–43% of the total heat gain, in the upper 2000 m global ocean between 1970 and 2017. There is also density stratification which has increased in the top 200 metres of oceans since 1970 meaning that the upper part of the ocean is now less dense than it once was. The cause is an influx of freshwater from melting ice making the ocean surface less dense than the deeper ocean. Associated with the stratification is a loss of oxygen from the open oceans. Oceans have taken up around 20-30% of anthropogenic CO2 meaning that they are now more acidic since the 1980s. Overall the global mean sea level (GMSL) is rising at an accelerating rate as there has been an increase in the rate of Greenland and Antarctic ice melt. Antarctica ice mas loss tripled from 2007–2016. The Greenland ice mass loss doubled over the same time period. The rate of GMSL rise for 2006–2015 of 3.6 mm yr–1 (3.1 – 4.1 mm yr–1, very likely range), is unprecedented over the last century and is around 2.5 times the rate for 1901–1990 of 1.4 mm yr–1 (0.8–2.0 mm yr–1, very likely range). There is accelerated ice flow in Antartica in two areas of the continent could lead to several metres of sea level rise over the next few centuries. There may be an irreversible change in ice instability. The sea level rises are not uniform around the globe and will be within ±30% of the global mean sea-level rise due to warming of water and impacts of land ice melt.

The report uses assessments of projected future changes which are based largely on CMIP514 climate model projections using Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). RCPs represent scenarios that include time series of emissions and concentrations of the full suite of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and aerosols and chemically active gases. In addition land use / land cover is included. RCPs provide only one set of many possible scenarios that would lead to different levels of global warming. Two scenarios RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 represent a lower emission scenario (RPC2.6) and a higher emission scenario (RPC8.5). RCP2.6 is based upon low greenhouse gas emissions and high mitigation future based upon phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) to give 66.6% confidence of having less than a two Celsius temperature rise by 2100. RPC8.5 is a higher emission scenario where there is little intervention to reduce greenhouse gases: it represents a continued and sustained growth of greenhouse gases. It represents the worst case scenario with highest greenhouse gas emissions.

There have been changes to ecosystems as seasons have been changing and the temperature regions adjusting. This has positive and negative impacts on ecosystems. There are more ecosystem disturbances with an increased frequency. Tundra areas have shown an increased greening but there is also a browning that negatively affects the ecosystem and its services.

Ocean Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems (EBUS) are some of the most productive ocean ecosystems. Increased ocean acidification and oxygen loss are negatively impacting two of the four major upwelling systems: the California and Humboldt Currents. Ecosystem structures have been affected impacting the biomass production and species composition. There are negative impacts on overall fish catch potentials which are linked to over fishing. Biogeochemical composition changes and effects of warming may also contributed to reduced fish stocks. There has been a reduction, by 50%, of coastal wetlands over the last 100 years. Vegetated coastal areas are an important carbon store. Coral reefs and rocky shores dominated by immobile, calcifying (e.g. shell and skeleton producing) organisms (e.g. corals, barnacles and mussels), are currently being impacted by extreme temperatures and ocean acidification. Marine heatwaves have already affected coral areas through coral bleaching since 1997. Recovery is slow, longer than 15 years, for this ecosystem.

Since the mid-20th century, the shrinking cryosphere in the Arctic and high-mountain areas has led to predominantly negative impacts on food security, water resources, water quality, livelihoods, health and well-being, infrastructure, transportation, tourism and recreation. There are also cultural impacts on indigenous peoples. There has been a rise in natural disasters linked to changes in the changes in cryosphere. High mountain environments are changing affecting the tourism potential although it may be offset by artificial snow production for example. Harmful algal blooms, which have increased in frequency, have shown an increase in their range since the 1980s. There will be further impacts on reclaimed land and hard coastal defences as the sea levels rise. More natural solutions include the creation of wetland habitats to enable better protection.

Projected Changes & Risks

Section B considers the projected changes and risks. During 2031-2050 there will continue to be declines in permafrost, snow cover and glacier mass loss. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will continue to melt into the 21st century and beyond. Rates and magnitudes of the cryosperic changes will continue, especially under the high greenhouse gas scenario. If there are strong reductions in greenhouse gases then changes will be reduced after 2050. Currently the Greenland ice sheet is contributing more to sea level rise than Antarctica but this may increase by the end of the 21st century although this is a low confidence statement. Arctic autumn and spring snow cover is projected to decrease by 5-10% relative to 1985-2006 in the near term (2031-2050). High mountain areas projections in low elevation snow melt are likely to be 10-40% over the same time period. Widespread permafrost thaw is expected this century and beyond. High emission scenarios would see a cumulative release of gigatonnes of permafrost carbon as carbon dioxide and methane released to the atmosphere. In high areas glacial melt will lead to further glacial lakes and there will be an increased risk of flooding from glacial lake outbursts. Arctic sea ice loss is projected to continue into the middle of the century.

Low greenhouse gas scenarios will lead to smaller changes in ocean heating, upper ocean stratification, ocean acidification and oxygen decline than higher scenarios. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is projected to weaken, although the extent of the weakening will depend upon the greenhouse gas emissions. The ocean will continue to warm through the twenty first century. Continuing ocean carbon take up will exacerbate the ocean acidification. The climate change since pre-industrial periods is affecting the ocean ecosystems. Extreme El Niño and La Niña events are likely to increase in frequency and intensify over the century. This will lead to drier or wetter events around the globe. There is likely to be a doubling of El Niño events under both RPC2.6 and RPC8.5. Sea levels are rising at an increasing rate and there will be more extreme events. The once a century event will become annual by 2050 in all RCP scenarios, especially in tropical regions. Seal level rises will continue beyond 2100. Coastal hazards will increase with more frequent and more intense tropical cyclones for example. There would be an increase in precipitation from these cyclones. The hazards will affect low lying cities and island states. The global mean sea level (GMSL) rise under the projection RCP2.6 is projected to be around 0.39m (in the 0.26m-0.53m likely range) for 2081-2100 and around 0.43m (in the 0.29m-0.59m likely range) in 2100 with respect to the baseline from the period 1986-2005. For RCP8.5 the corresponding rises in sea level would be 0.71m for 2081-2100 and 0.84m for 2100. It is likely to exceed 1m beyond 2100 but there is uncertainty from the melting of the ice in Antarctica. There will be regional GMSL differences. Natural and human processes effect the sea levels locally and these are not driven by a changing climate. One example is subsidence. These local processes will likely impact the relative sea level changes. Under RPC8.5 the projected sea level change is expected to be around 15mm each year. It may exceed several centimetres in the 22nd century. Several studies show a multi-meter sea level rise by 2300 unless emissions are greatly reduced. If the Antarctic ice sheet collapses there could be consequences for the sea levels but it is a complicated area.

High mountain and polar region terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will change with shifts in species and there will be a wildfire increase in these regions too. Alpine species will decline as other species migrate up slope. There will be range contractions. Permafrost thaw and decreases in snowfall will affect mountain hydrology and wildfire with impacts on the vegetation. Cold water coral ecosystems are projected to decline. The continued loss of arctic multi year sea ice will impact polar marine ecosystems through both direct and indirect effects on their habitats, populations and viability. Risks of severe impacts on biodiversity, structure and function of coastal ecosystems are projected to increase for elevated temperatures. The risk increases to very high risk under RCP8.5. Salinisation and hypoxia are likely to increase in estuaries with warming water, increased sea levels and tidal changes. There will be associated risks to the local estuary ecosystems including local extinction. There is high confidence that warm water corals will suffer local extinctions and reductions in area even if warming could be limited to 1.5 Celsius.

There will be risks for people and ecosystem services. Future cryosphere changes will affect water use including irrigation and hydropower systems. High mountain disaster risk will increase with risks such as fire, landslips, floods, avalanches and infrastructure exposure being affected. Engineering risk calculations will need to take into account the changes in the environments. High mountain tourism, recreation and cultural assets are all likely to be negatively affected. Changes in fish distribution and fish abundance will change with the climate changing. There is a medium confidence risk of a compromise to food safety through human exposure to elevated bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants and mercury in plants and animals. Fishing areas will be changed with cultural impacts on those communities who rely on their marine ecosystems. Without reductions in emissions the current trends show an increased exposure and vulnerability of coastal communities, risks (e.g. erosion and land loss or flooding or salinisation) and cascading impacts due to mean sea level rise and extreme events. There are very high risks to low lying communities, people in coral reef environments, urban atoll islands and low-lying Arctic locations in the case of high emission scenarios. Some island states are likely to become uninhabitable. Overall, and at a global level, a slower rate of climate related ocean and cryosphere changes provide greater adaptation opportunities.

Implementing Responses

Part C considers implementing responses to ocean and cryosphere change. Where governments and others who have an ambitious adaptation policy, which includes governance for transformative change, will be better at managing the risks. The greatest vulnerabilities exist where those people have the lowest capacity to respond. Temporal scales of climate change will be longer than those of government arrangements such as planning cycles, public and corporate decision making cycles and financial instruments. These temporal differences lead to challenges of how to best prepare and respond to long-term changes. Often governance arrangements are too fragmented either across nations or within nations and between departments or agencies. There is often a slow response to the rapid changes are going to occur, one example being shifting ecosystems. There needs to be rapid and robust governance systems in place to respond to climate impacts. Limitations may include the space that ecosystems need, non-climatic drivers and human impacts that need to be addressed as part of the adaptation response. Adaptive capacity differs between as well as within communities and societies. Those with the highest exposure and vulnerability to current and future ocean and cryosphere changes are often those with the lowest adaptive capacity especially in low lying areas, islands or coasts.

In order to strengthen responses to climate change there needs to be a shift towards protection, restoration and precautionary ecosystem-based management of renewable resource use, reductions in pollution and other stressors. Integration of water management and ecosystem-based adaptation lower the climate change risk locally and provide further multiple societal benefits. There are also constraints to such actions. Networks of protected areas help to maintain ecosystem services including carbon take up and storage. Terrestrial and marine habitat restoration and ecosystem management tools can be locally effective in enhancing ecosystem based adaptation: These actions are most successful when they have community support that is long-term support and are based upon good science. Coastal communities face challenging choices to create appropriate local integrated responses to sea level rises that balance the cost, benefits and trade offs of available options. Higher sea levels mean further challenges to protection of the coastline mainly due to economic, financial and social barriers. Reducing drivers of local exposure and vulnerability such as urbanising coastal areas and human induced subsidence are effective responses over the next decades. In areas of high assets such as cities the hard protection measures, such as dykes or sea walls, are likely to be positive responses. Resource limited areas may not be able to afford such measures. Where there is space ecosystem measures are likely to be a good adaptation method with benefits of coastal protection, carbon storage, improved water quality and biodiversity and livelihood support. Early warning systems are currently an effective coastal accommodation measure although there may have to be further measures introduced with the sea level rises predicted. Responses to sea level rise and associated risks will present society with profound governance shifts: there will need to be locally appropriate combinations of decision analysis, land-use planning, public participation, diverse knowledge systems and conflict resolution. Long term coastal plans need to account for sea level rises over decades over the next century.

Enabling conditions have been highlighted in the report. Enabling climate resilience and sustainable development depends upon urgent and ambitious emissions reduction targets combined with ambitious adaptation actions. There will need to be greater cooperation and coordination among governing authorities across spatial scales and planning horizons. It will be essential to have education, climate literacy, monitoring and forecasting, use of knowledge sources, sharing of data, information and knowledge, finance, addressing social vulnerability and equity and institutional support are essential. These investments enable capacity-building, social learning and participation in context specific adaptation. There needs be a move to building long-term resilience and sustainability.

Many nations will face challenges to adapt, even with ambitious mitigation. Many ocean and cryosphere-dependent communities are projected to face adaptation limits (e.g. biophysical, geographical, financial, technical, social and political) during the second half of the twenty first century. Low emission pathways will limit these risks from ocean and cryosphere changes. The low emissions scenarios will allow more effective responses and create co-benefits. Regional cooperation can support adaptation actions. Taking long term perspectives when making short-term decisions help to enable longer term risk taking beyond 2050 where there will be greater uncertainty. Context-specific monitoring and forecasting of changes in the ocean and the cryosphere informs adaptation planning and implementation, and helps with decision making over a longer time period. Measures should be prioritised to address social vulnerability and equity and this underpins efforts to promote fair and just climate resilience and sustainable development.

Conclusions: An Urgency For Climate Action

This assessment of the ocean and cryosphere illustrates the benefits of ambitious mitigation and effective adaptation for sustainable development and, conversely, the escalating costs and risks of delayed action. It highlights the urgency of taking climate action.

The Ocean & Cryosphere In A Changing Climate. The Summary for Policymakers

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West Antarctic Glacial Retreat and 30 by 30 Commitment To Nature

West Antarctic Glacial Retreat Increasing

The Getz region in Western Antarctica has seen an increased rate of glacial melt over the last two decades. A detailed study into 1000 kilometres of coastline investigated the rate of ice decline (or retreat) for glaciers that are melting. Since 1994, they have collectively lost 315 gigatonnes of ice. The main reason for the changes are thought to be “ocean forcing” whereby warmer waters are getting under glacial fronts and causing them to melt from below.

This area of Antarctica accounts for around 10% of sea level rise globally, so it is important to monitor the glacial movements. On average, the speed of all 14 glaciers in the region increased by almost a quarter between 1994 and 2018. The velocity of three central glaciers was higher as it was shown to be increasing by more than 40%. The most extreme was a 59% increase in velocity for ice stream.

Satellite observations allow the West Antarctic, and much wider areas around the margins of Antarctica, to be mapped in much more detail than it has been previously possible to do. High-resolution remotely sensed data from satellites, such as European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite which collects a new image every six-days, allows a much more in-depth analysis to be undertaken. The information has allowed monitoring of the changing rates of glaciers and ice flows. The rates of increased glacier speed along with ice thinning highlights that the Getz basin is in a state of ‘dynamic imbalance’. This means that it is losing more ice than it gains through snowfall.

Satellite technology has allowed a more comprehensive understanding of the state of glaciers in the western Antarctic. Data collection and monitoring is now much easier than it had been, due to the satellites. Detailed ground studies, which greatly aid the understanding of why the processes are happening, can be very challenging in remote and inhospitable places such as this. The ground studies often assist in the interpretation of data being collected from satellites. Further details can be reviewed on the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) web site.

30 By 30 Nature Campaign

A campaign to protect nature recognises the wider common good of nature based systems allowing life on Earth to flourish. That includes allowing human lives to flourish as well. It is estimated if nature’s services were expressed as a monetary value then $125 trillion of services are provided to us from nature. This is against a backdrop of having lost around 60% of terrestrial species over the last 50 years, 90% of big ocean fish over the last century and the fact that deforestation continues at a rate of more than 18 million acres each year. The Campaign for Nature highlights these figures and proposes a solution in terms of 30% of all land being protected to provide nature based solutions to our environmental and climate situation by the year 2030.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body established by nation states to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development. They highlight the sustainable use of wild species as being instrumental in sustainable development. Wild species provide half of the world’s seafood, a significant proportion of timber and energy, and provide a major source of protein, fibre and medicines for many communities in both developing and developed countries.

The scientific reasons for the 30% of land use being used for “ecosystem services” by 2030 are presented in this Science Advances paper: A global deal for nature (GDN) by Dinerstein et al from 2019. It notes a solution targeting 30% of Earth to be formally protected for nature with an additional 20% designated as areas that can be used to stabilise the climate, by 2030, to stay below 1.5°C that was set out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Natural ecosystems are critical in order to maintain human prosperity with the world warming. 65% of those who signed up to the Paris Agreement have committed to restoring or conserving ecosystems. As an example intact forests, especially tropical forests, sequester twice as much carbon as planted monocultures which are associated with agriculture.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature or IUCN has developed a series of categories for protected areas: they range from totally protected strict nature reserves where human activity is not permitted to the least strict category of protected areas that allow sustainable use of natural resources. They have a protected planet web site that lists the worlds protected areas. It highlights just how much protection nature has. The site suggests that the Earth currently has around only 9.8% of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs). There is a long way to go to the 30% target. There are many differences between countries with some exceeding this 30% figure and others are being behind it.


These two studies, from CPOM and the Science Advances paper, highlight increasing glacial decline as well as previous damage inflicted on our ecosystems by humankind. It goes to show just how critical the 2020s will be to addressing the environmental and climate crisis faced by humanity. There need to be big changes in how land is managed in order to restore a more natural balance on Earth. The 30 by 30 initiative sets out a clear path to get there.

Posted in Climate Change, Data Quality, Earth Science, Geography, Mapping, Megatrends, Resources, Smart, Sustainable Development | Tagged , | Leave a comment