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Ecosystem benefits expected to reduce by 9% by 2100: Study

A new study says there is an increasing possibility that ‘natural capital’ might disappear because of the effects of climate change and impact global economies

Climate-induced changes could lead to a 1.3% reduction in gross domestic product (GDP).
Climate-induced changes could lead to a 1.3% reduction in gross domestic product (GDP). (Pixabay)

Nature’s gifts such as air, clean water, and green spaces are key for survival and are counted among basic needs. Scientists call this ‘natural capital’ – referring to the current and future flow of benefits the natural resources bring with them. However, with climate change increasingly affecting these resources, there is a growing possibility that these benefits disappear, which will significantly impact global economies.

A new study, led by scientists at the University of California, Davis, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, showed that by 2100, there could be a 9% decline in ecosystem benefits to humanity. According to a press statement, climate change-induced changes to vegetation, rainfall patterns and higher carbon dioxide could result in an average 1.3% reduction in gross domestic product (GDP), across all the countries analysed, by 2100. 

Also read: Method used to predict how trees adapt to climate change is flawed: Study

"Our research found that the world's poorest 50% of countries and regions are expected to bear a staggering 90% of the GDP damages," lead author Bernardo Bastien-Olvera explained in the statement. "In sharp contrast, the losses for the wealthiest 10% might be limited to just 2%." These findings were published in the journal Nature.

According to the researchers, this study helps in better understanding damages that are not usually accounted for. “It also reveals an overlooked, yet startling dimension of climate change effects on natural systems -- its capacity to exacerbate global economic inequality,” Bastien-Olvera says. It shows that when countries lose natural capital, their economies suffer.

The findings emphasise the importance of creating climate policies that consider how each country benefits from its natural systems. For instance, lower-income countries tend to rely more on natural resources for their economic production, and a larger part of their wealth is in the form of natural capital.

Through this research, natural systems and human well-being are being integrated into an economic framework, the statement explained. The study further highlights how damage to ecosystems affects well-being in ways that are both measurable and disproportionate across populations. This understanding could help avoid economic losses in the near future.

According to the researchers, it’s important to ask: What do we gain if we are able to limit climate change and avoid some of its impacts on natural systems?

Also read: Rising temperatures causing more carbon emissions in the Arctic: Study

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