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Study: U.S. ranks among the top environmental offenders

New research provides a country-by-country ranking of environmental impact worldwide.

The United States ranks as the second-worst country for negative environmental impact, according to new research out of an Australian university. Topping the list as the worst offender: Brazil.

The rankings, published in the journal PLoS ONE, are based on natural forest loss, habitat conversion, marine captures, fertilizer use, water pollution, carbon emissions and species threat. The researchers avoided human health or economic indicators, measuring only environmental impact.

The team was led by scientists at the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute, who worked in collaboration with the National University of Singapore and Princeton University.

"The environmental crises currently gripping the planet are the corollary of excessive human consumption of natural resources," said Corey Bradshaw, the institute's director of ecological modeling. "There is considerable and mounting evidence that elevated degradation and loss of habitats and species are compromising ecosystems that sustain the quality of life for billions of people worldwide."

The ten countries with the worst environmental impact, according to the study, are:

  1. Brazil
  2. United States
  3. China
  4. Indonesia
  5. Japan
  6. Mexico
  7. India
  8. Russia
  9. Australia
  10. Peru

Most integral to a country's environmental impact -- more so than human population size and governance quality -- was its gross national income, the study said. "Total wealth was the most important explanatory variable," Bradshaw said. "The richer a country, the greater its average environmental impact."

And although wealthier countries have better access to clean technology and more "green" awareness, the researchers found no evidence to support the theory that environmental degradation levels off or declines past a certain wealth threshold.

When the researchers ranked countries by environmental performance relative to resource availability, the list included:

  1. Singapore
  2. Korea
  3. Qatar
  4. Kuwait
  5. Japan
  6. Thailand
  7. Bahrain
  8. Malaysia
  9. Philippines
  10. The Netherlands

The bottom line, researchers said: "The global community not only has to encourage better environmental performance in less-developed countries, especially those in Asia. There is also a requirement to focus on the development of environmentally friendly practices in wealthier countries."

Image: Forest cover being removed for cattle pasturage and development in Florida / Randolph Femmer, National Biological Information Infrastructure

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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