As we approach the quintessential ‘green’ holiday — April 22, Earth Day — one academic study should provide important perspective on the United States role in the world.
The Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a project of the Yale University Center for Environmental Law & Policy, this year ranked the United States 49th in overall environmental performance, among the 133 nations of the world included in the report.
The report is based on a detailed analyses of 22 diverse indicators divided between two general categories: environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The specific indicators represent a range of important measures of the state of our environmental stewardship: child mortality; particulate matter; fishery health; pesticides; forest cover; CO2 emissions; renewable electric; and much more (see graph, below).
The data is selected from extensive reviews of scientific literature as well as consultations with experts from each policy field from leading academic, government and scientific institutions around the world. The data is then analyzed by teams at both Yale and Columbia University.
In addition to the cumulative ranking, each nation is also ranked by each specific indicator, again divided by the two broad categories: Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality.
The United States performed less embarrassingly in comparison to the rest of the world in the broad category of “Environmental Health,” where it ranked 26 out of 132 nations in areas including water sanitation and air quality (#1 in both categories).
However, in the general category of “Ecosystem Vitality,” the United States’ performance is among the worst in the world, ranking at #100 overall.
In several specific sectors, the U.S. is almost last:
- 121 in Climate Change — ranked lower than Russia, Iran and Libya
- 113 in Sulfur Dioxide per capita
- 92 in Fishery Health
- 92 in CO2 emissions per GDP
- 104 in Water Resource/Use
- 108 in Forest Loss (made up for, somewhat, by a #1 ranking in forest cover)
The entire US performance report is here.
The top ranked nation? Switzerland comes in at #1. The worst? Iraq (#132).
The report also includes a ranking on the trends in each nation over the past ten years, in terms of meeting key environmental targets. In this category, the United States fared even worse. Since 2002, the land of “purple mountain majesty and amber waves of grain” ranks 79th.
The “American Green Community” can claim many proud accomplishments — particularly in opposing the most powerful corporate, polluting entities the world has ever known (and their political benefactors in Washington). Yet, this report is a sobering reminder:
There is much to be done, still.