If the world’s governments took just a portion of the money they use for environmentally damaging subsidies and used it for conservation efforts, the world’s rich diversity of species could be preserved, according to a new study in the journal Nature. Researchers at the University of Cambridge calculated that governments spend between $950 billion and $1,450 billion on “perverse” subsidies that promote energy use, water consumption, road-building, farming, and commercial fishing, therefore encouraging overexploitation of the natural environment. They concluded that if some $300 billion were diverted to protect ecosystems and compensate local people affected by nature reserves, the planet’s variety of life could be saved. “The obstacle to progress is the lack of political will to change patterns of government expenditure,” said the study.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.