Losing another kind of green

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images   Need an even greater economic catastrophe to keep your mind off the financial crisis? How about the rainforest crunch? According to a report by the European Union commissioned study, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, deforestation is costing the world up to five times more than the financial crisis figures (so ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
592141_081010_rainforest5.jpg
592141_081010_rainforest5.jpg

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

 

Need an even greater economic catastrophe to keep your mind off the financial crisis? How about the rainforest crunch?

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

 

Need an even greater economic catastrophe to keep your mind off the financial crisis? How about the rainforest crunch?

According to a report by the European Union commissioned study, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, deforestation is costing the world up to five times more than the financial crisis figures (so far) — between $2 and $5 trillion a year.

Sound like a stretch? As FP likes to say, “think again.” Forests provide a plethora of “services,” such as carbon dioxide absorption, erosion prevention, and biodiversity (which, in the most selfishly pragmatic evaluation spells out new medicines, new food sources, and eye candy). So if the forests disappear, we’ll have to find a new way to pay for — or live without — those kinds of services. The price tag is basically impossible to estimate (though leave it to the EU to try) but certainly huge.

A second phase of the study will be completed by 2010. If things keep going the way they have been for the last couple of days, the financial crisis might just have time to catch up.

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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