How citizens’ welfare is hurting the environment

New York, Feb 24: Despite an increasing awareness among the world community about reducing carbon footprints while sustaining development, nations are not doing too well, a study finds.

An analysis of 106 countries around the world found that most areas emit more and more carbon to improve their citizens’ well-being as those nations become more developed.

The study warns that the idea that as nations become more developed, they can improve their citizens’ well-being without adding to their rates of carbon emissions, doesn’t hold good.

“Across all these regions, the effect of economic development on the carbon intensity of well-being isn’t going down anywhere,” said study researcher Andrew Jorgenson, a sociologist at the University of Utah in the US.

Jorgenson’s research focuses on the question of whether economic development must conflict with the environment, or whether development can instead protect the environment.

The researcher analysed data from between 1970 and 2009.

First, he measured the carbon intensity of well-being for each country – a ratio of how much carbon a nation has to emit to improve its people’s lot.

In this case, Jorgenson used life expectancy at birth as a way to estimate well-being.

Populations with longer life expectancies generally have a better standard of living.

Next, he tracked the ratio over the decades, comparing it to each country’s gross

domestic product, a measure of economic development.

He wanted to know if countries would become more or less efficient at improving well-being as they developed.

He also split the countries into continental regions to better understand the trends at a local level.

The results showed different patterns in different regions.

In Asia and South and Central America, development led to an increase in the carbon expended to boost well-being.

The more developed these nations become, the more carbon they emit for each incremental improvement in their people’s well-being.

“These are nations that are experiencing incredible economic development, and they are experiencing, increasingly so, carbon-intensive economic development,” Jorgenson said in the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The only place where development doesn’t increase the carbon emitted to improve human life spans is Africa.

The US and China have become more carbon efficient, meaning that the ratio of emissions per unit of GDP has dropped but this alone has not slowed carbon emissions, Jorgenson concluded.

–Indo-Asian New Service

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IANS