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Green vs. gray: a cost-benefit analysis

Posted On: Apr. 3, 2017 12:00 AM CST

Investments in coastal gray infrastructure such as roads and bridges far outstrip the funding for green infrastructure such as wetlands and reefs, but a more balanced investment portfolio could prevent billions of dollars of storm damage, according to a study.

A total of $14 billion was spent on coastal conservation and green infrastructure while $198 billion in international aid funds were directed to coastal gray infrastructure over a 10-year period from 2004-13, according to the analysis “Rethinking Our Global Coastal Investment,” published in the Journal of Coastal and Ocean Economics and publicly released in March.

If 10% of international aid funds spent on building and rebuilding coastal gray infrastructure were instead used to conserve and restore coastal ecosystems, some conservation funds could be strategically reinvested to restore coral reefs and oyster reefs near high-density areas with a high risk of flooding, according to the analysis conducted by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The analysis also examined Munich Reinsurance Co.’s annual reports and determined that total losses during that period exceeded $514 billion, of which $214 billion were insured losses.