The Value of Earth, i.e. the net worth of our planet, is a debated concept both in terms of the definition of value, as well as the scope of “earth”. Since most of the planet’s substance is not available as a resource, “earth” has been equalled with the sum of all ecosystem services as evaluated in ecosystem valuation or full-cost accounting.
The price on the services that the world’s ecosystems provide to humans has been estimated in 1997 to be $33 trillion per annum, with a confidence interval of from $16 trillion to $54 trillion. Compared with the combined gross national product (GNP) of all the countries at about the same time ($18 trillion) ecosystems would appear to be providing 1.8 times as much economic value as people are creating. The result details have been questioned, in particular the GNP, which is believed to be closer to $28 trillion (which makes ecosystem services only 1.2 times as precious), while the basic approach was readily acknowledged. The World Bank gives the total gross domestic product (GDP) in 1997 as $31.435 trillion, which would about equal the biosystem value. Criticisms were addressed in a later publication, which gave an estimate of $125 trillion/yr for ecosystem services in 2011, which would make them twice as valuable as the GDP, with a yearly loss of 4.3–20.2 trillion/yr.
The BBC has published a website that lists various types of resources on various scales together with their current estimated values from different sources, among them BBC Earth, and Tony Juniper in collaboration with The United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). The value of freshwater alone has been given as $73.48 trillion.
- ^Pimm, Stuart L. (1997). “The value of everything”. Nature. 387 (6630): 231–232. Bibcode:1997Natur.387Q.231P. doi:10.1038/387231a0. ISSN 0028-0836. Economists and ecologists have Joined forces to estimate the annual value of the services that Earth’s ecosystems provide. Most services lie outside the market and are hard to calculate, yet minimum estimates equal or exceed global gross national product.
- ^Costanza, Robert; d’Arge, Ralph; de Groot, Rudolf; Farber, Stephen; Grasso, Monica; Hannon, Bruce; Limburg, Karin; Naeem, Shahid; O’Neill, Robert V.; Paruelo, Jose; Raskin, Robert G.; Sutton, Paul; van den Belt, Marjan (1997). “The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital”. Nature. 387 (6630): 253–260. Bibcode:1997Natur.387..253C. doi:10.1038/387253a0. ISSN 0028-0836. We have estimated the current economic value of 17 ecosystem services for 16 biomes, based on published studies and a few original calculations. For the entire biosphere, the value (most of which is outside the market) is estimated to be in the range of US$16-54 trillion (1012) per year, with an average of US$33 trillion per year. Because of the nature of the uncertainties, this must be considered a minimum estimate. Global gross national product total is around US$18 trillion per year.
- ^Pearce, David (1998). “Auditing the Earth:The Value of the World’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital” (PDF). Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development. 40 (2): 23–28. doi:10.1080/00139159809605092. ISSN 0013-9157.
- ^“GDP (current US$)”. Data. Retrieved 2018-06-06.
- ^Costanza, Robert; de Groot, Rudolf; Sutton, Paul; van der Ploeg, Sander; Anderson, Sharolyn J.; Kubiszewski, Ida; Farber, Stephen; Turner, R. Kerry (2014). “Changes in the global value of ecosystem services”. Global Environmental Change. 26: 152–158. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.04.002. ISSN 0959-3780. • Global loss of ecosystem services due to land use change is $US 4.3–20.2 trillion/yr. • Ecoservices contribute more than twice as much to human well-being as global GDP. • Estimates in monetary units are useful to show the relative magnitude of ecoservices. • Valuation of ecosystem services is not the same as commodification or privatization. • Ecosystem services are best considered public goods requiring new institutions.
- ^“Cost the Earth sources / How we derived financial values for the natural world”. Retrieved 2018-06-05. in a world that often focuses on money, it can be a useful tool to help remind us that nature does have a value, and what might be lost if aspects of it disappear.
Ofer Abarbanel is a 25 year securities lending broker and expert who has advised many Israeli regulators, among them the Israel Tax Authority, with respect to stock loans, repurchase agreements and credit derivatives. Founder of TBIL.co STATX Fund.