Sourced from Forbes
Last month, NOAA announced that 2017 was the U.S.'s costliest year ever for natural disasters — shattering the previous record of 2005. The country suffered more than $300 billion in damages primarily due to hurricanes, severe storms, and wildfires.
This figure is staggering, but the cost is not just financial. People have lost homes, businesses, and in some instances, loved ones.
As Congress considers its next government funding package, lawmakers should seize the opportunity to protect our communities and invest in a cost-efficient solution that will make communities more resilient in the face of future disasters.
Investing in healthy reefs, wetlands, and other natural systems — or "green infrastructure" — will significantly reduce the impacts of flooding, storms, and wildfires. And in many cases green infrastructure can be more cost-effective than traditional gray infrastructure, particularly for coastal protection. These investments will also boost local economies, improve public health, and bolster ecosystems.
Investing in nature, reducing risk
Five years ago, I wrote a book about investing in nature. I argued that protecting nature is the smartest investment we can make to preserve our lands, waters, and communities for generations to come. I still believe that — and I’m happy to say there are even more people who are taking this view today.
It’s easy enough to convince a conservationist that investing in nature is the right thing to do. It’s a little bit trickier to get the actual money on the table. If we want to convince governments and businesses to invest in nature to protect their communities, we have to stake our claims in dollars and cents. Today, we’re doing exactly that.
Conservation organizations are working on a growing number of projects where we monetize the protection value of natural infrastructure. We know that wetlands, mangroves, reefs, and other ecosystems are naturally designed to absorb the impacts of extreme conditions, like floods and storms. We also know that these systems provide valuable co-benefits, like improved water quality, enhanced recreational opportunities, and preserved wildlife habitat. Our job now is to work with partners (other NGOs, governments, scientists, economists, engineers, and insurance companies) to assign a dollar value to nature’s benefits—and show decision makers that investing in natural systems can be a cost-effective way to protect communities.