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How Much Does Earth Cost?

VO: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Even Earth has a price - so how much money is our planet actually worth? Land, sea, people and resources - if Earth was a business, it would be booming. But, is it even possible to calculate its profit or loss? Whether it's cash in hand, money in the bank, stock market value, or general economic worth... In this video, Unveiled uncovers the important figures.
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How Much Money Is the Earth Worth?


Surely our planet has an overall net worth. After all, the value of the industries that make up the global economy has a limit, and so do our natural resources. If you were somehow rich enough to buy EVERYthing, what would it cost? How much money is the entire Earth worth?

It’s a daunting task, in no small part due to the facts that there’s no universal definition of value, and that many of these things aren’t up for sale. But we can take a wild guess. Take the following with a grain of salt.

Let’s start with the so-called ecosystem valuation, a process that assigns a monetary value to the Earth’s natural resources. In an admittedly dated study from 1997, the price on the world’s ecosystem was estimated at $33 trillion. An updated study in 2011 valued the ecosystem much higher, at $125 trillion - about twice the world’s GDP.

In 2015, the BBC published the BBC Earth Index, which listed values for specific resources, and settled on a total figure of $100.3 trillion. The figures were researched both by BBC Earth and Dr. Tony Juniper in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

What’s perhaps most mind-boggling is just how valuable freshwater is: an astounding $73.4 trillion, making it by far the most valuable natural resource. Then again, it makes a lot of sense: trees need water to grow, livestock needs water to live, we need water for drinking, showering, cooking, and so on.

Coming in a distant second place are trees and forests, valued at $16.2 trillion. The third and final trillion dollar bounty are coral reefs, valued at $9.9 trillion. However, these probably won’t remain so valuable for much longer at the rate we’re destroying them. Other major valuable natural resources include fish, plankton, and pollinators. The study also included the value of various species based on their economic value, with polar bears valued at $6.3 billion and sharks at $944 million. National parks are also worth a lot, with the Grand Canyon valued at $711 million and Yellowstone National Park at $543.7 million.

Of course, we also have to consider the world’s Gross Domestic Product. According to the BBC Earth Index, the country with the highest GDP was the United States, then estimated at $17.42 trillion. In 2018, that reached roughly $19.3 trillion, with China’s GDP coming in second at $12.24 trillion. The Index also offers specifics about global and national industries - valuing the world’s oil supply at $3.3 trillion, the United States restaurant industry at $709.2 billion, coal at $36.6 billion, and cinema not far behind at $36.4 billion.

However, to learn the true value of man-made resources, we have to go deeper. In 2014, the CIA’s World Factbook stated that the gross world product totalled roughly $78.2 trillion USD, or $107.5 trillion when taking purchasing power parity into account. We . . . didn’t know what that meant either, so we looked it up! Put simply, purchasing power parity valuations control for irrelevant variations in exchange rates, providing a more accurate representation of gross domestic product.

Then there’s the value of the world’s money and markets. We’re talking about the WHOLE EARTH after all! A visualization created by Jeff Desjardins, editor-in-chief at Visual Capitalist, puts the current global money supply at around $90.4 trillion. This massive number accounts for all the world’s physical cash (including bank notes and coins), market accounts (including chequing and savings), and time deposits. The world’s supply of physical gold is valued at $7.7 trillion. The Federal Reserve Balance Sheet sits at $4.5 trillion. The global stock market is worth about $73 trillion, and the real estate market $217 trillion, which accounts for residential, retail, agricultural, and industrial land.

To sum up, estimates put the worth of the world’s natural resources at somewhere between $100.3 and $125 trillion. The gross world product totals about $107.5 trillion, factoring in purchasing power parity. Then money and markets add on close to $400 trillion! Sooo hopefully any would-be Earth owners have a fat pocket book. Mind you, a further complication is global debt, which is worth $215 trillion.

Then again, maybe this just isn’t ambitious enough for you. What about the PLANET ITSELF, rather than just the worth of natural resources, markets, and goods and services? Suppose that aliens are looking to purchase the whole kit and kaboodle as an investment property. Well, Greg Laughlin, an astrophysicist at the University of Southern California, Santa Cruz, has come up with a complex algorithm based on the Earth’s size, mass, temperature, and age, which puts its value as five QUADRILLION dollars. That’s a five followed by FIFTEEN zeroes.

Whether it’s hundreds of trillions of dollars, or five quadrillion for the entire planet, anyone aspiring to own the Earth would have to dig pretty deep. Better start saving!
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