The pursuit of happiness, human development and the environment are intertwined in two profound ways. First, we developed from hunters and gatherers into urbanites during a period of remarkable and reliable climate stability. This can no longer be taken for granted. Second, research shows that our well-being, happiness and quality of life are improved by environmental health and the services ecosystems provide for humans — like relaxation, clean air and fertile soil.
The UN’s iconic Human Development Index (HDI) is 20 years old today. Of all the world’s indices, the HDI is surely the most ingenious. It ranks countries by the quality of life they give to their people. Its brilliance lies in its simplicity.
According to the index, three parameters govern human development and quality of life: wealth, health and education. The wealth of a nation is measured this year by Gross National Income (it used to be measured by Gross National Product), health is quantified by citizens’ longevity (life expectancy at birth) and years of schooling indicate education.
While the HCI’s simplicity has ensured its endurance, it has one major failing: it takes no account of the environment. The founder of the Human Development Report, Mahbub ul Haq, says agrees that the index lacks a parameter for sustainability, so they have attempted to add an environmental dimension to the HDI, creating what their hope is closer to a human sustainable development index. After the release of last year’s HDI, Chuluun Togtokh recalculated the index, but added a fourth parameter: per capita carbon emissions.
“By including carbon emissions in the recalculation of the HDI, we now get an indication of the cost of one country’s quality of life to another’s. If a country has a very high HDI but also high carbon emissions, we can say that the high quality of life enjoyed by this nation comes at a price to the quality of life in other countries, particularly developing nations, and to future generations.” according to Chuluun Togtokh.
By adding the fourth dimension, the countries in the HDI get all new positions:
To see which countries are scoring better in carbon emissions, you can look at the top countries who advances and the top countries who fall in the index:
The Human Sustainable Development Index is based on an original idea by Chuluun Togtokh ( IGBP’s Global Change 2009, News).