How well is the world protecting ecosystems and human health?

How well is the world protecting ecosystems and human health? | Source:, Feb 19 2016. |

The new global environmental report card is out. The 2016 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) graded 180 countries on how well they are protecting human health and their ecosystems.


Child in an open sewer in Nigeria

Launched at the 2016 World Economic Forum, the EPI is a collaboration between the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, The Yale Data-Driven Environmental Solutions Group and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network. Five biennial environmental report cards have been issued previously.

This is how performance in the nine categories was assessed.

  • To evaluate health impacts, the EPI looked at unsafe water, unsafe sanitation, particulate matter pollution, household air pollution from solid fuels, and ambient ozone pollution.
  • Air quality was measured by exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), household air quality, and the average amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air.
  • To assess water and sanitation, the EPI looked at the country’s access to improved drinking water and the safe disposal of human waste.
  • Water resources were measured by tracking how much of a country’s wastewater is treated before being released into the environment.
  • Agriculture performance was determined by the efficiency of nitrogen use (since using nitrogen efficiently can boost productivity, while using it inefficiently can produce polluting runoff).
  • Forests were rated by the amount of tree cover loss between 2000 and 2014.
  • Fisheries were assessed according to how much of a country’s total catch comes from overexploited or collapsed stocks.
  • Biodiversity and habitat were rated by measuring a country’s area of protected biomes, both terrestrial and marine, and its efforts to protect species.
  • Climate and energy looked at a nation’s ability to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP and electricity generation. The measurements took into consideration the country’s economic and industrial development, so the least developed countries were not judged on lowering carbon emissions, but on providing access to electricity, which indicates the country is progressing from burning solid fuel indoors.

The 2016 EPI found that over the last 10 years, almost every country improved its performance. Globally, progress is being made in health, and in access to drinking water and sanitation. But the world is doing poorly on wastewater treatment and carbon intensity, and actually falling backwards on air quality and fish stocks.

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