Sustainable Development Indicator

How can human development be measured? GDP is limited to measuring economic activity and thus fails to take into account other essential indicators of human well being. Accounting for life expectancy and schooling besides economic performance, the Human Development Index (HDI) is already more comprehensive but still lacks one essential component: sustainability. What is the highest income, perfect education and health good for, if the worlds natural resources are depleted and the planet’s ability to sustain life is ruined? Climate change and excessive carbon emissions probably being the single most dangerous long term threats to decent human life conditions, the level of CO2-emissions has now been included in a more complete version of the HDI called HSDI (Human Sustainable Development Indicator). The results are not really surprising but nonetheless absolutely worth to be noted.

With the exception of more carbon efficient New Zealand the Anglo-Saxon world, dominating traditional development indicators is heavily punished for following a remarkably unsustainable development path. A bunch of European and Asian countries take the lead against Canada, Australia and the USA, the latter finding itself on the worrisome 28th rank.

ON-green-policy! It’s really impressive how much the USA fall back if sustainability is factored in. Its carbon heavy economic system (and lifestyle) apparently not only fails to provide adequate and equitable income for many of its citizens but at the same time jeopardises next generations’ livelihoods. Clearly, if looking at the complete picture of development, the USA should not be considered a model for other nations. This insight should trigger some policy choices. First and foremost in the USA and Canada (Australia has lately started to act upon carbon emissions) but just as importantly in the emerging economies all over the world. Politicians should plan long term, favour an energy and resource efficient development and not repeating the west’s bad choices. Choosing the green, sustainable route right now has some upfront costs but will trigger far greater benefits such as reduced health costs as well as increased and more sustainable economic and social development. And if one looks carefully, it becomes clear that this is not wishful thinking in a far off future but happening right now. The green economy already creates considerably more jobs with considerably less subsidies than let’s say the fossil industry. Europe got that and is increasingly moving towards sustainable development – the results show in this ranking. Others should follow suit for the good of us all.

Source: Wired

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