Research: A good life for all within planetary boundaries (all countries fail)

Research: A good life for all within planetary boundaries (all countries fail)

The website ‘https://goodlife.leeds.ac.uk/countries/’ let you visualize and compare the environmental and social performance of 151 countries. A total of 18 indicators – 7 environmental and 11 social – are included in the comparison. However, 81 of the included countries are missing data of between 1 and 9 indicators. The methods and results underpinning the data used on the website is the peer-reviewed article ‘A good life for all within planetary boundaries’ (abstract). It says that: “Physical needs such as nutrition, sanitation, access to electricity and the elimination of extreme poverty could likely be met for all people without transgressing planetary boundaries. However, the universal achievement of more qualitative goals (for example, high life satisfaction) would require a level of resource use that is 2–6 times the sustainable level, based on current relationships.”

The 7 environmental indicators (biophysical indicators) in the research are:

  1. CO2 Emission: Consumption-based allocation of CO2 emissions from energy and cement production.
  2. Phosphorus: Consumption-based allocation of phosphorus from applied fertilizer.
  3. Nitrogen: Consumption-based allocation of nitrogen from applied fertilizer.
  4. Blue Water: Consumption and pollution of blue water in the domestic water supply, plus virtual-water imports, minus virtual-water exports.
  5. Land-Use Change: Consumption-based allocation of the human appropriation of net primary production (eHANPP) embodied in final biomass products.
  6. Ecological Footprint: Biologically productive land and sea area needed to produce the biotic resources that a country uses, and to assimilate its CO2 emissions.
  7. Material Footprint: Consumption-based allocation of used raw material extraction (minerals, fossil fuels, and biomass)

And the 11 social indicators are:

  1. Life Satisfaction: National average of responses to the Gallup World Poll’s Cantril life ladder question.
  2. Healthy Life Expectancy: Number of years that an individual is expected to live in good health (without major debilitating disease or infirmity).
  3. Nutrition: Average calorific intake of food and drink per day.
  4. Sanitation: Percentage of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities.
  5. Income: Percentage of the population living on more than $1.90 a day.
  6. Access to Energy: Percentage of the population with access to electricity.
  7. Education: Gross enrolment in secondary school (i.e. the ratio of total enrolment, regardless of age, to the population that are of secondary-school age).
  8. Social Support: National average of responses to the question “If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?”
  9. Democratic Quality: Average of two Worldwide Governance Indicators: voice and accountability, and political stability.
  10. Equality: 1 minus the Gini coefficient of household disposable income (i.e. after taxes and transfers), multiplied by 100.
  11. Employment: Percentage of the labor force that is employed.

According to the research not a single country manages to meet basic needs for its citizens (good lives) at a globally sustainable level of resource use (within planetary boundaries). The closest you get is Vietnam yet failing on 5 out of 17 indicators (data on Education is missing). See the disturbing global visualization here: ‘https://goodlife.leeds.ac.uk/’ (the upper left corner is the ideal place for a country).

The four country-groups below (calculated by me) include a total of 123 countries, ranked by the number of planetary boundary-failures (only full environmental data countries are included), showing the average social indicators passed (only countries with 0, 1 or 2 missing indicators are included):

  • Rank 1-25 (89% environmental failures): 67% social indicators passed.
  • Rank 26-50 (83% environmental failures): 52% social indicators passed.
  • Rank 51-75 (47% environmental failures): 47% social indicators passed.
  • Rank 76-123 (11% environmental failures): 11% social indicators passed.

Apparently, living the good life generally trespasses the planetary boundaries (the research says: “In general, the more social thresholds a country achieves, the more biophysical boundaries it transgresses, and vice versa.”

Country level-data in Excel (with per capita planetary boundaries and social threshold all set at “1”) is available here: ‘https://goodlife.leeds.ac.uk/download-data/’. However, to provide an alternative visual overwiew I have marked all country indicators green or red as for “passed” or “failed” here: ‘Country indicators in green and red’.

The table below shows 129 countries with no more than 1 or 2 social indicators missing at the research, and with full data in ClimatePositions as well. The table is read like this: Australia’s per capita Climate Debt is $8,677 and 91% of the social indicators with data have passed, whereas 9% have failed.

Countries deviating negative from the general trend are in red, while positive deviation are in green. Read more below the table.


. . Climate Debt Percent passes
. . per capita Social indicators
. . . .
1. Kuwait $28.269 50%
2. Trinidad and Tobago $13.776 50%
3. United Arab Emirates $9.200 78%
4. Australia $8.677 91%
5. Canada $8.384 82%
6. Saudi Arabia $8.225 67%
7. United States $7.387 82%
8. South Korea $5.086 73%
9. Bahrain $4.020 67%
10. Finland $3.634 91%
11. Ireland $3.466 82%
12. Austria $3.275 100%
13. Netherlands $3.190 100%
14. Singapore $2.936 78%
15. Estonia $2.775 73%
16. Kazakhstan $2.748 64%
17. Japan $2.727 91%
18. Belgium $2.673 91%
19. Israel $2.511 73%
20. Germany $2.279 100%
21. Czech Republic $2.220 82%
22. New Zealand $2.119 80%
23. Malaysia $2.044 40%
24. Slovenia $2.005 82%
25. Russia $1.970 27%
26. Turkmenistan $1.949 44%
27. Cyprus $1.569 64%
28. Greece $1.444 55%
29. Spain $1.435 73%
30. Iran $1.433 30%
31. France $1.374 91%
32. Italy $1.295 60%
33. Denmark $1.095 91%
34. Portugal $1.058 64%
35. United Kingdom $1.057 73%
36. China $921 36%
37. Poland $912 70%
38. Slovakia $902 73%
39. Venezuela $870 50%
40. Sweden $868 91%
41. South Africa $770 9%
42. Croatia $759 64%
43. Bosnia and Herz. $749 44%
44. Turkey $654 27%
45. Chile $629 55%
46. Serbia $620 36%
47. Argentina $615 64%
48. Bulgaria $552 55%
49. Hungary $501 64%
50. Belarus $426 64%
51. Gabon $403 11%
52. Mexico $377 55%
53. Thailand $368 55%
54. Lebanon $334 33%
55. Mongolia $294 30%
56. Mauritius $276 36%
57. Panama $262 36%
58. Algeria $226 40%
59. Macedonia $218 33%
60. Botswana $181 0%
61. Brazil $144 55%
62. Romania $127 50%
63. Ecuador $118 27%
64. Jamaica $118 11%
65. Indonesia $108 18%
66. Dominican Rep. $96 18%
67. Egypt $95 30%
68. Jordan $80 36%
69. Ukraine $69 36%
70. Tunisia $68 36%
71. Uzbekistan $58 40%
72. Honduras $19 9%
73. Bolivia $13 9%
74. Vietnam $11 60%
75. Guatemala $2 9%
Uruguay $0 70%
Costa Rica $0 55%
Lithuania $0 50%
Armenia $0 40%
Latvia $0 40%
Paraguay $0 40%
Albania $0 36%
Azerbaijan $0 33%
Colombia $0 27%
Kyrgyzstan $0 27%
Moldova $0 27%
Peru $0 27%
Sri Lanka $0 27%
Swaziland $0 27%
Georgia $0 20%
Ghana $0 20%
Morocco $0 20%
Tajikistan $0 20%
Nicaragua $0 11%
Zimbabwe $0 11%
Burkina Faso $0 10%
Cambodia $0 10%
Cameroon $0 10%
Mali $0 10%
Mauritania $0 10%
Tanzania $0 10%
Uganda $0 10%
Bangladesh $0 9%
Benin $0 9%
El Salvador $0 9%
Guinea $0 9%
India $0 9%
Laos $0 9%
Madagascar $0 9%
Nepal $0 9%
Niger $0 9%
Pakistan $0 9%
Rwanda $0 9%
Sierra Leone $0 9%
Afghanistan $0 0%
Angola $0 0%
Burundi $0 0%
Central African Rep. $0 0%
Chad $0 0%
Haiti $0 0%
Kenya $0 0%
Malawi $0 0%
Mozambique $0 0%
Philippines $0 0%
Senegal $0 0%
Sudan $0 0%
Togo $0 0%
Yemen $0 0%
Zambia $0 0%

The four country-groups below include the 129 countries from the table, ranked by per capita Climate Debt, showing the average social indicators passed (only countries with 0, 1 or 2 missing indicators are included):

  • Rank 1-25 (Climate Debt on average: $5,424): 76% social indicators passed.
  • Rank 26-50 (Climate Debt on average: $978): 58% social indicators passed.
  • Rank 51-75: (Climate Debt on average: $163): 31% social indicators passed.
  • Rank 76-129: (Climate Debt on average: $0): 15% social indicators passed.

Apparently, living the good life generally accumulates Climate Debt (which is in line with the research saying that: “In general, social performance is most tightly coupled to CO2 emissions and material footprint…” and: “The largest gap between current performance and the biophysical boundary occurs for CO2 emissions…” (abstract)).

 

Website: A Good Life for all within Planetary Boundaries; country comparisons: ‘https://goodlife.leeds.ac.uk/countries/

Website: A Good Life for all within Planetary Boundaries; about the research: ‘https://goodlife.leeds.ac.uk/about/

Article in Nature Sustainability: “A good life for all within planetary boundaries”, 2018, abstract: ‘www.nature.com/articles/s41893-018-0021-4‘.

Article in Nature Sustainability: “A good life for all within planetary boundaries”, 2018: ‘https://static-content.springer.com/esm/art%3A10.1038%2Fs41893-018-0021-4/MediaObjects/41893_2018_21_MOESM1_ESM.pdf‘.

Drawing by Claus Andersen, 2018.

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