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Our planet is experiencing its sixth mass extinction event. Beloved creatures like Bornean orangutan, Sumatran elephant, hawksbill turtle and Sunda tiger are critically endangered. And there are 35,407 more species — including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and plants — on the IUCN Red List.
Concern for these creatures goes beyond the sentimental. A threat to biodiversity — the sum of the Earth’s species — is a threat to business … and it’s a threat to humanity as a whole.
Biodiversity provides valuable products and services.
According to the World Economic Forum, $44 trillion of economic value generation — half the global GDP — is moderately to highly dependent on nature. Meanwhile, the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Global Futures reports that damage to ecosystems including grasslands, forests and coral reefs — and the associated loss of biodiversity — could result in almost $10 trillion in losses from the global economy by 2050.
According to a 2014 study, the value of resources — raw materials, clean air and water, and the like — and services — carbon sequestration, waste management, wildfire mitigation and crop pollination, to name just a few — provided by nature was worth $125 trillion annually. The value of economic activity by humans, for comparison, is a comparatively paltry $80 trillion per year.
And replacing nature’s services with man-made interventions often isn’t cost-effective. A study in the Journal of Ecological Economics estimated that the cost of artificially pollinating crops would be $212 billion.
Saving the bees, then, represents tremendous cost savings. And to save the bees, we need to invest in their habitats and food sources.
Biodiversity collapse is an existential threat.
The climate crisis dominates headlines, and investing in biodiversity is an important step in mitigating its impact. Healthy ecosystems are known to absorb carbon, which helps offset the climate-changing effects of greenhouse gases. Climate change has been linked to deadly weather patterns like last week’s unusually cold temperatures. To stave off future incidents like this, it will be important to invest in biodiversity conservation.
And it’s worth noting that biodiversity also can shield against extreme weather events. For example, mangroves reduce risk of coastal damage from tsunamis and other large storms as well as erosion and rising sea levels, in turn saving lives and protecting business interests.
But there are some promising developments.
The 600-page Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity, published earlier this month, outlines steps for addressing human consumption and nature conservation, as well as economic metrics that place value on nature’s products and services.
Meanwhile, a handful of nonprofits — including the Taskforce for Nature-Related Financial Disclosure, the World Wide Fund for Nature and Global Canopy — launched last year to help investors identify, assess and manage factors like biodiversity and social equity and their effects on investments across various sectors. More than 70 organizations like AXA, Credit Suisse and Citi have joined, showing that the concept of “natural capital” is relevant and worthwhile to many investors.
"Bendable" concrete could capture carbon
Cement production is a major contributor to global carbon dioxide emissions, but new concrete technology could help lock in those greenhouse gases while creating a more resilient, even bendable product.
Paper or...Something else?
And Now for a musical interlude
The Oakland-based rapper Cassius Cuvée just dropped a track professing his appreciation for SPACs. Cuvée’s lyrics include such wisdom as: “The future’s EV and also ESG so the best type of SPAC is ACTC.” Maybe Novus will make the remix.