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article imageNew top-10 list ranks countries on extent of ecological damage

By Stephanie Dearing     May 6, 2010 in World
Adelaide - The USA, China and Australia all share one thing in common today -- they have been found to be three of the top-ten most environmentally destructive countries in the world.
The other countries making the top ten list are Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, India, Russia, and Peru. Of the 228 countries examined, these countries "... had the highest absolute impact (i.e., total resource use, emissions and species threatened)." The list is a result of research conducted by Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Adelaide University; Xingli Giam, Princeton University; and Navjot S. Sodhi, National University of Singapore.
Published May 5th in Plos One, Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries used rankings "... 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 country-specific data." Canada ranks 12th in the absolute list.
Testing out a controversial hypothesis called the Kuznets Curve (or EKC hypothesis), the researchers found there was a correlation between a nation's population and overall wealth, and the amount of environmental degradation that occurs within that nation. Most interestingly, the researchers found that the wealthier nations were the most destructive. As one might expect, high population growth rates are associated with greater environmental degradation.
The Encyclopedia of Earth says "The Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) hypothesizes ... the relationship between per capita income and the use of natural resources and/or the emission of wastes has an inverted U-shape. According to this specification, at relatively low levels of income the use of natural resources and/or the emission of wastes increase with income. Beyond some turning point, the use of the natural resources and/or the emission of wastes decline with income."
The researchers actually came up with two top-ten lists; the absolute one already mentioned. The other list is "proportional" and the ten most destructive nations on that list are ... Singapore, Korea, Qatar, Kuwait, Japan, Thailand, Bahrain, Malaysia, Philippines and Netherlands. Proportional measurements examine environmental degradation "relative to resource availability per country," whereas the absolute scale measures "total degradation as measured by different environmental metrics." Both scales use the same criteria, which are the broad categories of "resource consumption, deforestation, pollution and biodiversity loss."
The ten best proportionally ranked countries are Eritrea, Suriname, Lesotho, Turkmenistan, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Mali, Vanuatu, Chad and Bhutan. The ten best according to the absolute ranking are Tonga, St. Kitts & Nevis, Gambia, St. Vincent Grenadines, Swaziland, Barbados, Djibouti, Grenada, St. Lucia, and Antigua & Barbuda.
The researchers intend the ranking to inform policy decision making at the state level.
The release of the rankings in Australia dovetailed with an announcement from Australia's Environment Minister, Peter Garrett that there are only 50 Orange-bellied Parrots left. The remaining parrots are expected to die off in the next three to five years, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
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