Friday, February 1, 2008

The uneven distribution of ecological damages

Science News Online reported on a study that measures the distribution of ecological damage around the world. The main outcomes are contained in this figure:

GIANT STEPS. Color-coded footprints indicate the dollar cost, in trillions, of environmental damage inflicted by high-, middle-, and low-income groups of nations on each of the other two groups. E. Roell, from Srinivasan graphic

The study uses the results from UN environmental economic valuation studies and express these in net present values. A discount rate of 2% was used implying a larger preference for future ecological goods and services as are expressed in markets currently. Sensitivity analysis is done on a range of 1-3%. The depicted figure is therefore only one interpretation and may look very different with different values for ecological impact and different discount rates.

The study does set the stage though and a surprising result is the high amount of impact by low income countries on middle-income countries.

See Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS) for the full study

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