A new World Wildlife Fund report reveals for the first time the countries whose economies would be worst affected over the next 30 years if the world doesn’t act urgently to address the global environmental crisis.
The study, Global Futures, which calculated the economic cost of nature's decline across 140 countries ranging from India to Brazil, shows that if the world carries on with "business as usual," the United States would see the largest losses of annual GDP in absolute terms, with $83 billion wiped off its economy each year by 2050 - an amount equivalent to the entire annual GDP of Guatemala.
"This groundbreaking report shows that the U.S. will suffer the world's biggest economic impact due to nature loss," said Rebecca Shaw, chief scientist, World Wildlife Fund. "We cannot envision a just and stable country, and a prosperous economy, if forests disappear, pollinators vanish, biodiversity collapses and rivers and the ocean are depleted. Continuing with business as usual could lead to disastrous outcomes. We need governments and corporations to halt nature loss and tackle this planetary emergency."
The Global Futures study used new economic and environmental modeling to assess what the macroeconomic impact would be if the world pursued "business as usual," including widespread and land-use change, continued increase in emissions of greenhouse gases, and further loss of natural habitats. It found this status quo approach would cost the world at least $479 billion a year, adding up to $9.87 trillion by 2050 - roughly equivalent to the combined economies of the UK, France, India and Brazil.
In contrast, under a scenario in which land-use is carefully managed to avoid further loss of areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services, which the study terms the 'Global Conservation' scenario, economic outcomes would be dramatically better, with global GDP rising by $490 billion per year above the business as usual calculation.
Japan and the UK also stand to lose staggering amounts - $80 billion and $21 billion every year respectively. The projected economic losses in the United States, Japan and UK are due largely to expected damage to their coastal infrastructure and agricultural land through increased flooding and erosion as a result of losses of natural coastal defenses such as coral reefs and mangroves.
Developing countries will also be badly affected, with Eastern and Western Africa, central Asia and parts of South America hit particularly hard, as nature loss impacts on production levels, trade and food prices. According to the report, the top three countries predicted to lose the most as a percentage of their GDP are Madagascar , Togo and Vietnam , which by 2050 are expected to respectively see declines of 4.2 percent, 3.4 percent and 2.8 percent per year.
"It's difficult for many people to conceptualize the true value of nature and the many benefits it provides to humanity," says Shaw. "This report translates nature loss into country-specific economic terms - a tangible and powerful way to galvanize action from private sector leaders and government officials."
This pioneering method of analysis was created through a partnership between WWF , the Global Trade Analysis Project at Purdue University, and the Natural Capital Project, co-founded by the University of Minnesota.
Steve Polasky, Co-Founder of the Natural Capital Project, said: "The world's economies, businesses and our own well-being all depend on nature. But from climate change, extreme weather and flooding to water shortages, soil erosion and species extinctions, evidence shows that our planet is changing faster than at any other time in history. The way we feed, fuel and finance ourselves is destroying the life-support systems on which we depend, risking global economic devastation."
Thomas Hertel, Executive Director of the Global Trade and Analysis Project, said: "The science and economics are clear. We can no longer ignore the strong economic case for restoring nature. Inaction will cost us far more than actions aimed at protecting nature's contributions to the economy. To ensure positive global futures, we need to achieve more sustainable patterns of production and land use, and reform economic and financial systems to incentivize nature-based decision making."
Full report and summary can be found HERE.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The figures included in the Global Futures study relate to the projected economic impact of specific forms of nature loss but do not include all the different ways in which environmental degradation will affect global economies between now and 2050. The full impact, once all these factors are taken into account, is expected to be far greater.
The Global Futures study predicts annual global losses by 2050 of:
- $327 billion from damaged protections from flooding, storm surges and erosion due to changes in vegetation along coastlines and sea-level rises
- $128 billion from loss of carbon storage which protects against climate change
- $15 billion from lost habitats for bees and other pollinating insects
- $19 billion from reduced water availability for agriculture
- $7.5 billion from lost forests and forest ecosystem services
The study also foresees global price hikes over the next 30 years for key commodities, as the world's agricultural sector will be hardest hit by declines in nature, such as water shortages and a decrease in bees and other pollinating insects. This could ultimately lead to a rise in food prices for consumers globally, with implications for food security in many regions.
Predicted price rises by 2050 for key commodities include:
- Timber +8%
- Cotton +6%
- Oil seeds +4%
- Fruit and vegetables +3%
Worst-affected countries in terms of actual loss of annual national GDP (billions) under a business as usual scenario by 2050:
- United States of America (-$83)
- Japan (-$80)
- United Kingdom (-$21)
- India (-$20)
- Australia (-$20)
- Brazil (-$14)
- South Korea (-$10)
- Norway (-$9)
- Spain (-$9)
- France (-$8)
Worst-affected countries in terms of % loss of annual national GDP under a business as usual scenario by 2050:
- Madagascar (-4.2%)
- Togo (-3.37%)
- Vietnam (-2.84%)
- Mozambique (-2.69%)
- Uruguay (-2.54%)
- Sri Lanka (-2.48%)
- Singapore (-2.31%)
- New Zealand (-2.29%)
- Oman (-2.25%)
- Portugal (-1.95%)