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What do we have to lose? Understanding and responding to climate-induced loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services

Research report

Written by Michai Robertson, Shandelle Steadman, Laetitia Pettinotti, Sarah Colenbrander

Image credit:Piyaset – Shutterstock.

Assessments in the aftermath of climate-related events focus almost uniquely on monetary losses. Ecological systems are fundamental to the continuity of society, but decision-making structures consistently fail to consider losses like these; losses that fall into the category of Non-Economic Loss and Damage (NELD).

By failing to consider and mitigate against the non-economic losses arising from climate change, we risk triggering a collapse in ecosystems that would have far-reaching effects on human health, dignity, and productivity.

The lack of metrics to assign financial value to such factors makes it difficult to consider the cost of measures to prevent and respond to loss and damage. But with an estimated average of 50% of global gross domestic product moderately or highly dependent on ecosystem services, we urgently need to begin integrating the value of these structures into assessments of the aftermath of climate-related events.

This paper asks how these challenges manifest in loss and damage relating to biodiversity and ecosystems, examining the impact for human life and options for quantifying and addressing loss and damage to earth’s natural systems. Reviewing the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services, we consider how to avert and minimise loss as well as address unavoidable loss and damage to biodiversity and ecosystems.