Restoring the Environment - Making Dollars and Sense in the Face of Climate Change

I’m going to stand out on a fairly strong limb and make a declaration just about everyone (from treehugger to tea partier) can agree with: restoring degraded natural areas is a good thing. Luckily this thinking is gaining ground in some pretty important circles.

If you’ve followed this blog for longer than the past sentence you’ve learned (here, here, and well, here too) that restoring ecosystems and helping ensure they remain resilient in a warming world is a central component of any real climate solution—and doing so is also one of the best ways to protect and create jobs. In fact, experts from across public, private and nonprofit sectors agree that investing in protecting and rehabilitating natural areas is a win-win pretty much any way you slice and dice it.

As if this weren’t enough to convince you, the United Nations Environmental Program recently released a new report on the many benefits from ecosystem restoration.  

Of the more powerful facts in the report:

  • The planet’s ecosystems have been valued to be worth 21-72 trillion dollars annually (the World Gross National Income was about 58 trillion bucks in 2008).
  • Over 60% of the world’s ecosystems services are degrading, and climate change poses additional threats to historic problems of land use change and pollution
  • Healthy ecosystems can help communities in many ways, including mitigating the damage caused by natural disasters and helping reduce water-borne illnesses

But let’s just say you are a cold-hard-facts, numbers-oriented type of person that wants to know how we can best spend scarce public resources in hard economic times. Well, the report has something for you too: 

Well planned, appropriate restoration, compared to loss of ecosystem services, may provide benefit/cost ratios of 3–75 in return of investments and an internal rate of return of 7–79%, depending on the ecosystem restored and its economic context, thus providing in many cases some of the most profitable public investments including generation of jobs directly and indirectly related to an improved environment and health. Ecological restoration can further act as an engine of economy and a source of green employment.

Let’s pass this info along so we make sure it gets into the right circles on Capitol Hill!