Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Measuring Environmental Sustainability

Yale's ESI index is a useful tool for starting a discussion about how we measure environmental sustainability (http://www.yale.edu/esi/). Are environmental problems getting better or worse? Environmentalists fear policy complacency and in addition they have genuine concerns about the impacts of climate change, deforestation, and the rise of the automobile around the world. Will environmentalists be pleased that across countries, the Yale ESI index indicates that richer nations are more "sustainable"?

I thought that the Yale team has posted a nuanced response to their critics (see
http://www.yale.edu/esi/h_critiques.pdf).

These researchers admit that there is a fundamental index numbers issue. To give a concrete example. Suppose that every university can be rated on the quality of its football team and the quality of its economics faculty. If U.S News and World Report gives equal weight to each of these factors, then Harvard will be ranked close to the middle of the pack. If you place a weight of .9 on faculty quality, Harvard will look a lot better. So, subjective weighting decisions play a key role in index determination. The ESI team weights all of their categories equally. Let's take a look at their categories.

Variable Description Component
Urban population weighted NO2 concentration SYSTEM
Urban population weighted SO2 concentration SYSTEM
Urban population weighted TSP concentration SYSTEM
Indoor air pollution from solid fuel use SYSTEM
Percentage of country's territory in threatened ecoregions SYSTEM
Threatened bird species as percentage of known breeding bird species in each country SYSTEM
Threatened mammal species as percentage of known mammal species in each country SYSTEM
Threatened amphibian species as percentage of known amphibian species in each country SYSTEM
National Biodiversity Index SYSTEM
Percentage of total land area (including inland waters) having very low anthropogenic impact SYSTEM
Percentage of total land area (including inland waters) having very high anthropogenic impact SYSTEM
Dissolved oxygen concentration SYSTEM
Electrical conductivity SYSTEM
Phosphorus concentration SYSTEM
Suspended solids SYSTEM
Freshwater availability per capita SYSTEM
Internal groundwater availability per capita SYSTEM
Anthropogenic NOx emissions per populated land area STRESS
Anthropogenic SO2 emissions per populated land area STRESS
Anthropogenic VOC emissions per populated land area STRESS
Coal consumption per populated land area STRESS
Vehicles in use per populated land area STRESS
Annual average forest cover change rate from 1990 to 2000 STRESS
Acidification exceedance from anthropogenic sulfur deposition STRESS
Percentage change in projected population 2004-2050 STRESS
Total Fertility Rate STRESS
Ecological Footprint per capita STRESS
Waste recycling rates STRESS
Generation of hazardous waste STRESS
Industrial organic water pollutant (BOD) emissions per available freshwater STRESS
Fertilizer consumption per hectare of arable land STRESS
Pesticide consumption per hectare of arable land STRESS
Percentage of country under severe water stress STRESS
Productivity overfishing STRESS
Salinized area due to irrigation as percentage of total arable land STRESS
Percentage of total forest area that is certified for sustainable management STRESS
World Economic Forum Survey on subsidies STRESS
Agricultural subsidies STRESS
Death rate from intestinal infectious diseases VULNER
Child death rate from respiratory diseases VULNER
Children under five mortality rate per 1,000 live births VULNER
Percentage of undernourished in total population VULNER
Percentage of population with access to improved drinking water source VULNER
Average number of deaths per million inhabitants from floods, tropical cyclones, and droughts VULNER
Environmental Hazard Exposure Index VULNER
Percentage of total land area under protected status CAP
Ratio of gasoline price to world average CAP
Percentage of variables missing from the CGSDI "Rio to Joburg Dashboard" CAP
Knowledge creation in environmental science, technology, and policy CAP
IUCN member organizations per million population CAP
Local Agenda 21 initiatives per million people CAP
Corruption measure CAP
Rule of law CAP
Civil and Political Liberties CAP
World Economic Forum Survey on environmental governance CAP
Government effectiveness CAP
Democracy measure CAP
Energy efficiency CAP
Hydropower and renewable energy production as a percentage of total energy consumption CAP
Dow Jones Sustainability Group Index (DJSGI) CAP
Average Innovest EcoValue rating of firms headquarted in a country CAP
Number of ISO 14001 certified companies per billion dollars GDP (PPP) CAP
World Economic Forum Survey on private sector environmental innovation CAP
Participation in the Responsible Care Program of the Chemical Manufacturer's Association CAP
Innovation Index CAP
Digital Access Index CAP
Female primary education completion rate CAP
Gross tertiary enrollment rate CAP
Number of researchers per million inhabitants CAP
Number of memberships in environmental intergovernmental organizations GLOBAL
Contribution to international and bilateral funding of environmental projects and development aid GLOBAL
Participation in international environmental agreements GLOBAL
Carbon emissions per million US dollars GDP GLOBAL
Carbon emissions per capita GLOBAL
SO2 Exports GLOBAL
Import of polluting goods and raw materials as percentage of total imports of goods and services GLOBAL

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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