Climate Change

Economics of biodiversity

The UK commissioned a study published in 2021 that was to help government establish environmental policies for 25-years. Project leader Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University was assisted by a long list of expert contributors, advisors, and reviewers.

Natural historian and broadcaster David Attenborough wrote a foreword to the almost 500-page report:

We are facing a global crisis. We are totally dependent upon the natural world. It supplies us with every oxygen-laden breath we take and every mouthful of food we eat. But we are currently damaging it so profoundly that many of its natural systems are now on the verge of breakdown…

We are now so mechanically ingenious that we are able to destroy a rainforest, the most species-rich ecosystem that has ever existed, and replace it with plantations of a single species in order to feed burgeoning human populations on the other side of the world. No single species in the whole history of life has ever been so successful or so dominant.

Now we are plundering every corner of the world, apparently neither knowing or caring what the consequences might be…

In the preface, Professor Dasgupta notes:

At the end of the Second World War, absolute poverty was endemic in much of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; and Europe needed reconstruction. It was natural to focus on the accumulation of produced capital (roads, machines, buildings, factories, and ports) and what we today call human capital (health and education). To introduce Nature, or natural capital, into economic models would have been to add unnecessary luggage to the exercise.

…We may have increasingly queried the absence of Nature from official conceptions of economic possibilities, but the worry has been left for Sundays. On week-days, our thinking has remained as usual.

…The Review shows that although the difference in conception is analytically slight, it has profound implications for what we can legitimately expect of the human enterprise. The former viewpoint encourages the thought that human ingenuity, when it is directed at advancing the common good, can raise global output indefinitely without affecting the biosphere so adversely that it is tipped into a state far-removed from where it has been since long before human societies began to form; the latter is an expression of the thought that because the biosphere is bounded, the global economy is bounded.

This is an extraordinary work, but it is a challenging document for those of us outside academia.

Many will doubt then Prime Minister Boris Johnson read the entire report but his comments led the government response which says that significant progress has already been made towards delivering a ‘nature positive’ future. While it is important for us to focus on actions, not promises, I am encouraged the UK’s conservative administration expressed words like these:

The Government agrees with the Dasgupta Review’s fundamental conclusion: nature, and the biodiversity that underpins it, ultimately sustains our economies, livelihoods and well-being, and so our decisions must take into account the true value of the goods and services we derive from it.

Canada’s conservative politicians would not dare to echo these thoughts in public.

I won’t go beyond the few excerpts above, but I hope many readers here will download the report and spend time absorbing the important messages.

Categories: Climate Change

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2 replies »

  1. Biodiversity is important for the continued life of all animals, plants, etc.
    Although never a science orientated person, did figure out everything depends upon some thing or some one else to continue to live. The one which always hits me right in the head is, no bees not so much food, if any. As a kid, never thought about it. As an adult, wow, we need themm and if I get stung by a bee, well I’ll get over it. I won’t get over not eating regularly. The pesticides which kill tiny little things also kills bees.

    We need biodiversity. We need to understand the world is inter dependent.
    Its so wierd, you have corporations cutting down trees and destroying an enviornment and then you have another group planting trees. Had any one thought of just leaving the trees where they are.

    Nature is/was a finely balanced thing. It got that way for a reason. Humans don’t know what is best. We need to learn to live with what we have and not go around destroying everything. You can’t eat dollar bills or gold. Drinking oil does not improve your health or quench your thirst.


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