Wednesday, May 9, 2007

WRI: Value Earth's Ecosystems or They Will Disappear

Environment News Service: Climate change is not only altering weather patterns and causing sea levels to rise, it is also transforming ecosystem services that humans have always taken for granted, the World Resources Institute said [May 5] in a new report.

Economists usually treat natural assets such as clean drinking water, absorption of carbon dioxide, or the decomposition of wastes as if they have no value. Instead, they focus on a narrow set of economic indicators, such as gross domestic product, GDP, disposable income, and purchasing power parity. Many of nature's services are not included in national accounts and forecasts. "We must urgently expand the climate debate beyond reducing greenhouse gases to focus on how climate change is altering ecosystem services," said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, WRI, this morning at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars….

The report presents the results of the earliest thinking about how to address the difficult realities and the enormous potential uncovered by The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Launched in June 2001 and involving more than 1,300 scientists from 95 countries, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is a study of how humans have altered ecosystems, and how changes in ecosystem services affect human well-being - now and in the future.

"In the last half of the 20th century," the assessment found, "humans changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of history, primarily to meet growing needs for food, fresh water, timber, fiber, and fuel. This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the variety of life on Earth."

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