The debates raging over how to deal with climate change often swirl around costs. Some warn that doing anything to stop our planet from warming will cost us dearly in jobs and revenue. Others warn that the cost of letting Earth get warmer is far more steep. It could flood cities, worsen droughts, and make it harder to grow food in many places.
Left out of these debates is the effect that climate change will have on nature–and the services that we depend on nature for. We take those services for granted, but if we damage the ecosystems that provide them, we’ll miss them. In my new “Matter” column for the New York Times, I take a look at how some scientists are trying to put a price tag on the global services of ecosystems, including protection against floods and erosion. If they’re right, the value is colossal–about twice the world’s gross product. Check it out.