Are our Oceans worth $24 Trillion?

Q Phia
Image: Q. Phia / Flickr

Economic valuation of nature is still controversial for many, but WWF's new report 'Reviving the Ocean Economy' attempts to put a figure on the economic value of Earth's marine environments: $24 trillion. But does this approach help or hinder environmental protection? 

Our oceans are worth at least $24 trillion, according to a new WWF report Reviving the Ocean Economy: The case for action—2015. And goods and services from coastal and marine environments amount to about $2.5 trillion each year—that would put the ocean as the seventh largest economy in the world if put into terms of Gross Domestic Product.

The economic values listed in the new report are conservative, as outputs—such as wind energy—are not generated by the ocean, and were therefore excluded from the report. Valuable intangibles, such as the ocean’s role in climate regulation or production of oxygen, were also left out. Working with the Boston Consulting Group and the Global Change Institute, WWF developed this report to marry scientific evidence with potential impacts aligned with current trends, making it one of the first to produce an economic assessment of this kind.

“The oceans are our ‘natural capital’ — a global savings account from which we keep making only withdrawals. To continue this pattern leads one place: bankruptcy. It is time for significant reinvestment and protection of this global commons.”

Brad Ack, Senior Vice President for Oceans at WWF

The report identifies eight urgent, achievable actions that can help turn oceans around and allow it to continue to meet the essential needs of humanity and nature, ranging from taking global action to avoiding dangerous climate changes to driving international cooperation and investment for the oceans.

This year marks a unique opportunity for the future of our oceans, as international negotiations on climate change and sustainable development will soon to take place. In the days following the report release the US government takes a leadership role as Chair of the Arctic Council. Working with the 7 other Arctic member nations the US may chart a path for a sustainable future, critical for the health of people, species, and a thriving global economy of marine goods and services

Further information about the WWF report available here.

Image credit: "green turtle 4 lekuan 1, siladen, indone" (CC BY 2.0) by q.phia