Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Country Rankings in Terms of Relative Environmental Impact

In a former posting, I looked into a ranking of countries by their ecological footprint. Today, I found more sophisticated and theoretically robust environmental impact rankings of nations than the ecological footprint one. (In fact, the authors of the cited article assert that their new rankings are overcoming some weak points of other well-known rankings such as the City Development Index (CDI), Ecological Footprint (EF), Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), Genuine Savings Index (GSI), Human Development Index (HDI), Living Planet Index (LPI), and the Well-Being Index (WI).)

A research team lead by an Australian scientist published rankings of 179 countries in terms of their relative environmental impact. Data used for the analysis were population density (PD), population growth rate (PGR), governance quality (GOV), Gross National Income (GNI), natural forest loss (NFL), natural habitat conversion (HBC), marine captures (MC), fertilizer use (FER), water pollution (WTP), proportion of threatened species (PTHR), and carbon emissions (CO2).

In the article, two rankings summarize their primary findings.

1) In the "proportional" (relative to resource availability per country) composite ranking, small countries such as Singapore and South Korea were blamed for their intensive resource exploitation.
2) In the "absolute" (total degradation as measured by different environmental metrics) composite ranking, mostly large countries were ranked as worst. However, it is surprising that Brazil outranked USA or China.

Tables for the two rankings are as follows:

Table 1) Twenty worst-ranked countries by proportional composite environmental (pENV) rank

Table 2) Twenty worst-ranked countries by absolute composite environmental (aENV) rank

In their explanation of results, authors are specifically debunking the famous environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) hypothesis.

The EKC "predicts that wealthier societies can reduce environmental degradation beyond a certain threshold." However, their "tests of non-linearity in the relationship between per capita wealth and environmental impact supported only linear (proportional impact) or no relationship."
...This finding "suggests that any potential improvement resulting from higher per capita wealth is overwhelmed by the current necessity for economies to grow."

Source: Bradshaw, C. J. A., Giam, X., & Sodhi, N. S. (2010). Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries. PLoS ONE, 5(5), e10440. Retrieved from

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