A report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) says that the impact of climate change on our oceans, along with human disregard for them, could cost trillions.
The Valuing the Ocean study describes the ocean as “the cornerstone of our life-support system” and insists that it should be valued. Neglect across five key areas – fisheries, sea level rise, tourism, storms and ocean carbon sink – could cost up to $2 trillion by 2100.
The SEI says that “protecting the oceans must be a priority in global sustainability goals”, especially ahead of this summer’s Rio+20 talks.
“We must develop an integrated view of how our actions impact the ocean, and threaten the vital services it provides, from food to tourism to storm protection”, said Kevin Noone, director of the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences (SSEESS) at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and co-editor of the report.
“The global ocean is a major contributor to national economies, and a key player in the Earth’s unfolding story of global environmental change, yet is chronically neglected in existing economic and climate change strategies at national and global levels.
“We want to bridge these gaps and give a holistic view of the value of the ocean.”
The SEI report says that a business-as-usual stance will cost over a trillion dollars more than if measures are taken to reduce carbon emissions, and examines the state of our oceans on both a 50 and 100-year timeframe.
By 2100, the ocean could cost us $1.98 trillion, or 0.25% of global GDP. But in an ideal scenario where climate change adaption measures are implemented, well over $1.3 trillion of this could be saved.
“These figures are just part of the story, but they provide an indication of the price of the avoidable portion of future environmental damage on the ocean – in effect, the distance between our hopes and our fears”, said Frank Ackerman, director of SEI’s Climate Economics Group.
“The cost of inaction increases greatly with time, a factor which must be fully recognised in climate change accounting.”
Climate change is billed as the biggest threat to our oceans’ longevity, but there are other factors, too. Acidification is another huge problem, especially since the oceans are becoming acidified at the fastest rate in 300 million years.
Yesterday was World Water Day, so many readers will still have some other shocking water statistics fresh in their minds. Oceans are as important to our planet as clean drinking water, and a further reason, if any was needed, to take stock of the need to seriously tackle climate change.
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Picture source: Yves Ouellette