Ranking countries by their environmental impact


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Environmental protection is critical to maintain ecosystem services essential for human well-being. It is important to be able
to rank countries by their environmental impact so that poor performers as well as policy ‘models’ can be identified. We
provide novel metrics of country-specific environmental impact ranks – one proportional to total resource availability per
country and an absolute (total) measure of impact – that explicitly avoid incorporating confounding human health or
economic indicators. Our rankings are based on natural forest loss, habitat conversion, marine captures, fertilizer use, water
pollution, carbon emissions and species threat, although many other variables were excluded due to a lack of countryspecific
data. Of 228 countries considered, 179 (proportional) and 171 (absolute) had sufficient data for correlations. The
proportional index ranked Singapore, Korea, Qatar, Kuwait, Japan, Thailand, Bahrain, Malaysia, Philippines and Netherlands
as having the highest proportional environmental impact, whereas Brazil, USA, China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, India,
Russia, Australia and Peru had the highest absolute impact (i.e., total resource use, emissions and species threatened).
Proportional and absolute environmental impact ranks were correlated, with mainly Asian countries having both high
proportional and absolute impact. Despite weak concordance among the drivers of environmental impact, countries often
perform poorly for different reasons. We found no evidence to support the environmental Kuznets curve hypothesis of a
non-linear relationship between impact and per capita wealth, although there was a weak reduction in environmental
impact as per capita wealth increases. Using structural equation models to account for cross-correlation, we found that
increasing wealth was the most important driver of environmental impact. Our results show that the global community not
only has to encourage better environmental performance in less-developed countries, especially those in Asia, there is also a
requirement to focus on the development of environmentally friendly practices in wealthier countries.

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  • Russia has the most extensive forest cover, followed by Brazil, Canada and USAEstimated area of gross forest cover loss at the global scale is 1,011,000 km2, or 3.1 % of year 2000 forest area (0.6% per year from 2000 to 2005)Gross forest cover loss was highest in the boreal biome, with fire accounting for 60 % of that lossThe humid tropics had the second-highest gross forest cover loss, due mainly to broad-scale clearing for agriculture in Brazil, Indonesia and MalaysiaWhen expressed as proportion lost from the 2000 extent estimates, the humid tropics is the least disturbedThe Amazon interior is the largest remaining ‘intact’ forest, followed by the Congo basinThe dry tropics has the 3rd-highest gross forest cover loss, with Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay accounting for most of thisAlthough the temperate biome had the lowest forest cover (due mainly to forest clearances long, long ago), it had the 2nd-highest proportional gross forest cover lossNorth America has the greatest area of gross forest cover loss, followed by Asia and South AmericaNorth America alone accounts for ~ 30 % of global gross forest cover loss, and has the highest proportional gross forest cover loss at 5.1 %Brazil has the highest gross national forest cover loss of any nationIndonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are next in line for tropical countriesUSA has the highest proportional global forest cover loss since 2000Despite previous estimates suggesting that Canada has had little forest loss, the new estimates place it second in terms of gross forest cover loss only to Brazil
  • > 19,000 species (7 % of all Eudicots)Papilionoideae (73 %), Caesalpinioideae (10 %), Mimosoideae (17 %)36 tribes; 650 generaall continents; all terrestrial biomesdwarf herbs to large treeshigh economic importance (food, fodder, medicine)
  • Ranking countries by their environmental impact

    1. 1. Ranking countries by their environmental impact<br />Corey J. A. Bradshaw1,2, Xingli Giam3, Navjot S. Sodhi3<br />1THE ENVIRONMENT INSTITUTE, University of Adelaide; 2South Australian Research & Development Institute<br />3Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore<br />
    2. 2. <ul><li>> 4 million protists
    3. 3. 16600 protozoa
    4. 4. 75000-300000helminth parasites
    5. 5. 1.5million fungi
    6. 6. 320000 plants
    7. 7. 4-6 million arthropods
    8. 8. > 6500 amphibians
    9. 9. > 30000 fishes
    10. 10. 10000 birds
    11. 11. > 5000 mammals</li></li></ul><li>99 % of ALL species that have ever existed...<br />EXTINCT<br />species lifespan = 1-10 M years<br />Ordovician (490-443 MYA)<br />Devonian (417-354 MYA)<br />Permian (299-250 MYA)<br />Triassic (251-200 MYA)<br />Cretaceous (146-64 MYA)<br />Anthropocene<br />extinction rate 100-10000× background<br />© Tiantian Zhang, Good50x70.org<br />Crutzen 2002 Nature 415:23; Bradshaw & Brook 2009 J Cosmol2:221-229<br />
    12. 12. Bradshaw et al. 2009 Trends Ecol Evol24:541-548<br />Bradshaw et al. 2009 Front Ecol Environ 7:79-87<br /><ul><li>1,011,000 km2 lost 2000-2005 (3.1 %; 0.6 %/year)
    13. 13. highest in boreal biome (60 %)
    14. 14. humid tropics next (Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia)
    15. 15. dry tropics next highest (Australia, Brazil, Argentina)
    16. 16. N.A. greatest proportional lost by continent
    17. 17. Nationally, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, DR Congo</li></ul>Hansen et al. 2010 PNAS<br />doi:10.1073/pnas.0912668107<br />Barson et al. 2000 Land Cover<br />Change in Australia, Bur RurSci<br />© A. Prokopec<br />
    18. 18. IUCN RED LIST OF THREATENED SPECIES www.iucnredlist.org<br /><ul><li>21 % of all known mammals
    19. 19. 30 % of all known amphibians
    20. 20. 12 % of all known birds
    21. 21. 35 % of conifers & cycads
    22. 22. 17 % of sharks
    23. 23. 27 % of reef-building corals</li></ul>threatened with extinction<br />
    24. 24.
    25. 25. Ecology-Life History<br />range(number of FAO Fishing Areas),<br /><ul><li> risk for sharks with small range size
    26. 26. similar for teleosts with slightly larger ranges</li></ul> habitat <br /><ul><li> threat risk for reef sharks
    27. 27. and for pelagic teleosts</li></ul>environmental temperature regime<br /><ul><li> risk for deepwater sharks
    28. 28.  risk deepwater teleosts</li></ul>Field et al. 2009 Advances in Marine Biology 56:275-363<br />
    29. 29. Human threats<br />fisheries interest<br /><ul><li>no influence for sharks or teleosts</li></ul>game-fished<br /><ul><li>no influence for sharks or teleosts</li></ul>dangerous to humans<br /><ul><li> decreased threat for dangerous sharks</li></ul>Field et al. 2009 Advances in Marine Biology 56:275-363<br />
    30. 30. Mesopredator Release<br /><ul><li>ecosystems unbalanced by reduction of higher trophic-level predators exerting ‘top-down’ control on abundance of species occupying lower trophic levels
    31. 31. based on earlier theory (in 1980s)</li></ul>Soulé et al. 1988 ConservBiol2:75; Soulé & Crooks 1999 Nature 400:563<br />
    32. 32. <ul><li>dingo-cat-marsupial
    33. 33. lynx-fox-hare
    34. 34. shark-ray-scallop</li></ul>Johnson et al. 2007 Proc R Soc B 274:341; Elmhagen et al. 2010 J Anim Ecol; Myers et al. 2007 Science 315:1846<br />
    35. 35. Sodhi et al. 2008 PLoS One 3:e1636<br />
    36. 36. Bradshaw et al. 2008 J Ecol 96:869-883<br />
    37. 37. Sodhi, Brook & Bradshaw 2007 Tropical Conservation Biology Wiley-Blackwell<br />log % forest remaining (km-2)<br />log human population density (km-2)<br />
    38. 38. © C. Sekerçioglu<br />
    39. 39. Halpern et al. 2008 Science 319:948-952<br />
    40. 40. invasive species and starfish outbreaks<br />bleaching<br />deforestation, soil erosion, sediment & nutrient loading<br />destructive fishing practices<br />overfishing<br />
    41. 41.
    42. 42. Field et al. 2009 Fish & Fisheries 10:323-328<br />
    43. 43. Evil quartet<br />habitat destruction<br />over-exploitation<br />introduced species<br />extinction cascades<br />Diamond 1984 Extinctions Chicago University Press<br />
    44. 44. Brook et al. 2008 Trends Ecol Evol25:453-460<br />
    45. 45. Evil quintet<br />Evil sextet<br />habitat destruction<br />over-exploitation<br />introduced species<br />extinction cascades<br />climate change<br />synergies<br />Brook et al. 2008 Trends Ecol Evol25:453-460<br />
    46. 46. justification to maintain healthy ecosystems is intangible because it seems unrelated to personal well-being<br />© Millennium Ecosystem Assessment<br />
    47. 47. reduce desertification<br />maintain soils<br />crop pollination<br />seed dispersal<br />food provision<br />water purification<br />fuel provision<br />fibre provision<br />climate regulation<br />flood regulation<br />disease regulation<br />waste decomposition/detoxification<br />nutrient cycling<br />soil formation<br />primary production<br />pharmaceutical sources<br />cultural appreciation (aesthetic, spiritual, educational, recreational…)<br />€153 billion/year<br />fisheries: €50 billion/year<br /><ul><li>€50 billion lost/year
    48. 48. land-based ecosystem loss €545 billion by 2010
    49. 49. > €14 trillion/year lost by 2050</li></ul>Cost of Policy Inaction (COPI):<br />The case of not meeting the 2010 biodiversity target.<br />European Commission<br />
    50. 50. 1990-2000<br /><ul><li>~100,000 people killed
    51. 51. 320 million people displaced
    52. 52. total reported damages > US$1151 billion </li></ul>Bradshaw et al. 2007 Glob Change Biol13:2379-2395<br />
    53. 53. <ul><li>decades of warning
    54. 54. human population 6.8 B; 9-10 B by 2050
    55. 55. competition for resources – famine, wars
    56. 56. loss of basic ecosystem services
    57. 57. fundamental worldwide shifts in policy required
    58. 58. identifying relative country degradation
    59. 59. highlight nations needing assistance
    60. 60. better-performing nations as model governance structures</li></li></ul><li>City Development Index www.unchs.org<br />Ecological Footprint www.footprintnetwork.org<br />Environmental Performance Index epi.yale.edu<br />Environmental Sustainability Index sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu<br />Genuine Savings Index worldbank.org<br />Human Development Index hdr.undp.org<br />Living Planet Index www.panda.org<br />Well-Being Index www.well-beingindex.com<br />Environmental Impact Rank<br />Böhringer & Joachim 2007 Ecol Econ 63:1-8<br />
    61. 61. <ul><li>inability to describe complexity of ‘sustainability’
    62. 62. not comprehensive
    63. 63. mix environmental, economic and health data
    64. 64. often subjective combinations, weightings, normalisation
    65. 65. not available for large sample of nations
    66. 66. not consistent</li></li></ul><li>Environmental Performance Index epi.yale.edu<br />
    67. 67. provide rank of proportional environmental impact<br />provide rank of total (absolute) resource use<br />examine concordance among measures of environmental impact within composite indices<br />determine correlation between ranks and existing indices of environmental performance;<br />test for correlations between ranks and population size, governance quality and wealth<br />test EKC hypothesis (impact nonlinearly related to per-capita wealth)<br />Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440<br />
    68. 68. ENVIRONMENTAL<br />KUZNETS CURVE<br />environmental damage<br />per capita prosperity<br />
    69. 69. <ul><li>natural forest loss</li></ul>2005-1990 D/ha<br /><ul><li>natural habitat conversion</li></ul>human-modified landcover/total landcover<br /><ul><li>marine captures</li></ul>1990-2005 fish, whales, seals/EEZ km<br /><ul><li>fertiliser use</li></ul>NPK/ha arable land<br /><ul><li>water pollution</li></ul>biochemical oxygen demand/total renewable water resources<br /><ul><li>carbon emissions</li></ul>forestry, land-use change, fossil fuels/km2<br /><ul><li>biodiversity threat</li></ul>Red List threatened birds, mammals, amphibians/listed species<br />Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440<br />
    70. 70. CONCORDANCE: Kendall’s W = 0.26 <br />
    71. 71. CONCORDANCE: Kendall’s W = 0.25 <br />
    72. 72. Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440<br />
    73. 73. “I anticipate that the anti-science crowd will be screeching and howling with indignation when they read this one.”<br />“This is such BS, China is WAY worse then the U.S.”<br />“This researcher is a waste ...”<br />“This article is crap.”<br />“Can we really depend on some study when the Chinese could have funded this or maybe some group who was angry at the US and Brazil for whatever? I highly doubt the accuracy of the findings. Looks like the Treehuggers are at it again.”<br />“Shame on you Australia !!! I guess your dying great Barrior[sic] reef is America's fault too!!!!”<br />“here we go again. I'm so frickin' sick of these watermelons (green on the outside, red (communist) on the inside) treehuggers. The only f*^king green I care about is made of paper and folds.”<br />
    74. 74.
    75. 75. Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440<br />
    76. 76.
    77. 77. Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440<br />
    78. 78. ENVIRONMENTAL<br />KUZNETS CURVE<br />environmental damage<br />per capita prosperity<br />Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440<br />
    79. 79. Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440<br />
    80. 80. © Moronail.net<br />
    81. 81. more direct measure of environmental impact than ‘sustainability’ <br />purpose of index depends on its ultimate application<br /><ul><li>proportional better reflects performance relative to economic opportunity
    82. 82. absolute better reflects country’s contribution to global environmental degradation</li></ul>proportional-absolute correlation: citizens’ attitude reflected globally<br />Asian countries dominate for high impact<br />minor gains with increasing wealth overwhelmed (no EKC)<br />No leakage considered – wealth effects likely much larger<br />
    83. 83. © WWF<br />
    84. 84. <ul><li>XingliGiam</li></ul>Princeton University, USA<br /><ul><li>Navjot S. Sodhi</li></ul>National University of Singapore<br />corey.bradshaw@adelaide.edu.au<br />www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/corey.bradshaw<br />ConservationBytes.com<br />