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New Study Ranks Countries by Environmental Impact

Three universities collaborate to release an evaluation of the relative environmental impact of 228 countries.

Ever wonder which countries are killing the planet and which countries are not. Researchers from the University of Adelaide, the National University of Singapore and Princeton University wondered the same thing. Earlier this month, they published an interesting study ranking countries by their proportional (measured against total resource availability) and absolute (measured total environmental degradation at a global scale) environmental impact. So are you curious about the ten worst planetary offenders? The answers may or may not surprise you.

The study is called Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries, and it used 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 focused on environmental impact only.

The researchers found that the wealth of a country was the most important driver of environmental impact. Professor Corey Bradshaw, leader of the study from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute in Australia, told Care2.com,

“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. 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.”

Actually, the correlation between wealth and environmental impact doesn’t surprise me. If you have traveled to the developing world, you have seen a clear difference in lifestyles compared to the industrialized countries. So without further ado, here are the top ten highest offending and the top ten lowest offending countries for absolute environmental impact:

Ten Worst Ranked Countries

  1. Brazil
  2. USA
  3. China
  4. Indonesia
  5. Japan
  6. Mexico
  7. India
  8. Russia
  9. Australia
  10. Peru

Ten Best Ranked Countries

  1. Antigua and Barbuda
  2. St. Lucia
  3. Grenada
  4. Djibouti
  5. Barbados
  6. Swaziland
  7. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  8. Gambia
  9. St. Kitts and Nevis
  10. Tonga

Now the question is… can I convince my husband to move to the Caribbean Islands?

Follow Cindy Tickle on Twitter @ethicalbiz
Image Credit: woodleywonderworks
via flickr under a cc license

Written by Cindy Hoots

With more than 10 years experience working for a major Fortune 500 company, Cindy specializes in socially and environmentally responsible business strategies. She has developed successful corporate communications and stakeholder engagement strategies on contentious sustainability issues and has worked with a number of NGOs and activist organizations on how to effectively partner with multinational companies. Cindy frequently writes about topics ranging from what is corporate social responsibility to sustainable supply chain and measuring a company's environmental impact. She believes business plays a vital role in the health of our communities and our planet.

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