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Global Futures: Uniting Economics & Ecosystem Services

This month, the UN General Assembly convenes in New York for the 74th time. A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota, World Wildlife Fund UK, and Purdue University hope to grab their attention with a new research tool that has reached alarming conclusions.

Global Futures, a powerful new analytical tool that is the first of its kind to compare global economic models and high-resolution land-use and ecosystem services models, covers 140 countries and all major economic sectors of the world. Its results draw clear connections between the provision of ecosystem services (such as coastal protection, pollination, and carbon storage) and macro-economic outcomes (such as employment, GDP, and prices).

“We show that nature provides immense value to the economy,” says Justin Johnson, who contributed to the work alongside IonE colleagues Steve Polasky and Chris Nootenboom. “To calculate this, we created a new model that links a well known economic model, GTAP, with our ecosystem services model, InVEST, providing new precision for assessing complex global challenges.”

Though the report made available to UN General Assembly members is just a preview of the full Global Futures study, its conclusions are already striking. For example, if present rates of coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass loss continue, over US$330 billion (.47%) of global GDP could be lost every year by 2050.

“If future generations are to enjoy a secure and prosperous future, world leaders must take decisive action in New York to reverse nature’s loss — committing to launch an Emergency Declaration that will pave the way for a new deal for nature and people,” says the report. Read it here.


Grace Becker is the communications associate at IonE and an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, where she studies strategic communication, sustainability studies, and Spanish. 

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