“The environmental crises currently gripping the planet are the corollary of excessive human consumption of natural resources. There is considerable and mounting evidence that elevated degradation and loss of habitats and species are compromising ecosystems that sustain the quality of life for billions of people worldwide,” says Corey Bradshaw, leader of a new study by the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute in Australia that has ranked most of the world’s countries for their environmental impact.
The study, Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries, uses seven indicators of environmental degradation: natural forest loss, habitat conversion, marine captures, fertilizer use, water pollution, carbon emissions and species threat. Unlike existing rankings, this study deliberately avoided human health and economic data, and instead focused on environmental impact only. Other variables–bushmeat harvest, coral reef habitat quality, seagrass loss, freshwater habitat degradation, illegal fishing, invertebrate threat patterns, and some forms of greenhouse gas emission–were excluded due to a lack of country-specific data.
Two rankings were created: a “proportional” environmental impact ranking, where impact is measured against total resource availability, and an “absolute” environmental impact ranking which measures total environmental degradation at a global scale. Listed here are the top ten worst offending countries for absolute environmental impact, those that are just doing the most damage, regardless of per capita calculations.
The study, in collaboration with the National University of Singapore and Princeton University, found that the total wealth of a country was the most important driver of environmental impact. “We correlated rankings against three socio-economic variables (human population size, gross national income and governance quality) and found that total wealth was the most important explanatory variable the richer a country, the greater its average environmental impact,” Professor Bradshaw said. “There is a theory that as wealth increases, nations have more access to clean technology and become more environmentally aware so that the environmental impact starts to decline. This wasn’t supported,” he added.
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