Weather-related disasters cause billions of dollars in damages. Costs include insurance, property damage and loss, asset losses, business interruption, energy use, infrastructure damage, lost crops, livestock, and timber, and emergency response. Other consequences are lost lives, jobs, food security, property, and damaged ecosystems, as well as health issues, poor air and water quality, and loss of fertile soil, habitat, and biodiversity.
For many disasters, it is more cost-effective to be proactive rather than reactive. Nature-based solutions (NBS) provide proactive mitigation measures to control many social, weather-related disasters, such as reducing stormwater flows into sewage treatment plants. NBS can also mitigate social and economic challenges in many ways, such as reducing the heating and cooling costs of buildings and increasing tourisms, cultural services, recreational opportunities, and aesthetics.
In the northeastern United States, coastal wetlands protected properties worth $625 million from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, thereby avoiding excessive damage costs. Similarly, ocean reefs and mangroves buffered shorelines and helped protect shorelines and coastal properties from flood damage and associated costs. The Global Centre on Adaptation has estimated that mangroves in 59 countries help to protect 15 million people from flooding and can reduce property damage by over $65 billion annually. In addition to reducing the costs of extreme weather events, NBS are also less expensive to build and maintain, and provide several other benefits when compared to grey infrastructure, such as concrete sea walls. Other benefits include recreation opportunities, green jobs, and improved air quality.
The World Economic Forum research estimates that $44 trillion of the world’s economy relies on nature. NBS are designed to restore, rebuild, and protect our natural and built environments.