The value of Earth’s natural infrastructure drops to $ 33


SAN DIEGO, May 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – A new study estimates that the value of Earth’s natural infrastructure such as the atmosphere, forests, wetlands and oceans has fallen to $ 33 billion – after taken into account the 5 billion dollars in damages to humanity.

The analysis, conducted by Environmental Business International (EBI) and originally published in the Fall 2020 edition of the Climate Change Business Journal (CCBJ), estimates the economic value of the Earth, without humans, at 38 quadrillion. of dollars. One quadrillion equals 1,000 trillion.

Earth’s atmosphere has lost about $ 1.2 quadrillion in economic value compared to its prehuman value of $ 12 quadrillion, while forests and wetlands have lost 42% and 45% of their value, respectively.

The EBI team, led by Grant Ferrier, founder of environmental industry research firm EBI and editor of the Environmental Business Journal since 1988, has compiled and tabulated estimates from numerous studies, scholarly and scientific journals and concluded that the Earth’s atmosphere and forests have suffered the greatest loss of economic value since the beginning of human civilization.

Click here to read the CCBJ study summary.

“By recognizing the finite value of the Earth and its resources and ecosystems – or its ‘natural capital’ or ‘natural infrastructure’ – we can show the validity of implementing economic instruments such as pollution taxes or resource extraction costs to start taking into account the overall cost value of our planet, ”Ferrier said.

“Conversely, business models should increasingly attribute credits to the positive impacts generated by effective management of our natural infrastructure to help preserve, enhance, restore or even create more value,” Ferrier said. “We regularly measure a country’s gross domestic product, but even attempts to report a regular green GDP do not include the rise and fall of natural infrastructure or the amount needed to protect or restore depleted natural resources. “

EBI model of the economic value of natural infrastructure (trillions of dollars)

Natural Active Pre-human 2020 Loss
Atmosphere 12,000 10,800 1,200
Oceans 4000 3,600 400
Ice caps (cryosphere) 600 400 200
Lakes and rivers 2,200 1,600 600
Hydrological cycle 2,600 2500 100
Other 2,000 1,800 200
Forests 2,400 1,400 1000
Swamps 400 220 180
Biodiversity 6000 5,200 800
Other 2,000 1,400 600
Lithosphere 4000 3,900 100
Total 38,200 32 820 5,380

Source: Environmental Business International Inc. Estimates are derived from a compilation of estimates and opinions from multiple sources of NGO, think tank and academic articles on each item, as well as published articles. on natural capital and ecosystem services; and interviews and emails. communications with published analysts, researchers and environmental economists.

Modeling the valuation of natural resources is similar to how insurance industries and their actuarial analysts apply economic values ​​to measure or predict monetary damage resulting from contamination, pollution, major weather events, climate risks and other impacts on ecosystems.

For example, the American Forest Association estimates the annual economic value of a tree to be around $ 500 in today’s dollars. This value takes into account the contribution of a tree to air quality, erosion control, shelter and temperature modulation. With approximately 3 trillion trees on Earth, forests represent $ 1.5 quadrillion in economic value. By comparison, before the advent of agriculture over 10,000 years ago – and more recently the lumber industry – scientists estimate that the earth had twice as many trees as it does today.

“This study serves as an alarming reminder to governments, businesses and citizens that every tree we cut, every mountain of minerals we remove and every contaminant we place in the atmosphere has a progressive negative economic impact on Earth,” said Ferrier. “The human impact on our atmosphere, oceans, forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands should be factored into our economic system in order to create more sustainable environmental and economic policies that increasingly need to be considered. integrated into an economic system that values ​​the environment rather than freely allowing its exploitation, ”said Ferrier.

Ferrier acknowledges the inaccurate nature of EBI’s current estimates in the “meta-study” and acknowledges the work of pioneers in environmental economics such as Stern, Costanza and others who provided estimates of the economic value of natural capital or ecosystem services. “Environmental economics is by no means a new field, but I believe its findings have not yet had enough influence to shape policies, investments and the fate of our natural infrastructure,” said Ferrier.

Further study estimates the economic value of man-made infrastructure such as railways, paved roads, buildings, dams, gas pipelines, power cables, etc., in billions of dollars. However, it is much less than the value of the earth’s total natural infrastructure. By comparison, the world’s 193 economies contribute about $ 100,000 billion in gross world product measured in traditional economic terms.

“This study points out that repairing a mile more of pavement or adding a mile more of freeway is less important to maintaining the quality of human life on Earth than restoring or maintaining one more hectare of wetlands, native forests, coral reefs, desert or arctic habitat, said Ferrier. “Man and nature can indeed exist in harmony. We just need a an economic system that incorporates this basic premise. Recognizing the additional economic impact of unsustainable behavior is the first step in preventing the continued degradation of our natural infrastructure. “

About Environmental Business International
Environmental Business International Inc. (EBI) is an independent private research and publishing company that generates strategic business intelligence in the environment industry and the climate change industry. With 33 years of market research and environmental analysis across all key industry segments, EBI provides proprietary information to executives, investors, analysts, policy makers and management consulting firms in the form of reviews sales, executive events, research reports and statistical data sets. Visit

Press contact: Marc Lumpkin, Altitude Public Relations, [email protected]


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