Switzerland does a good job managing the environment and protecting human health. The United States does it middlingly well. And Somalia, Haiti, and Afghanistan—as you might expect—not so great. They are some of the worst performers in a new ranking of environmental performance.
The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) assesses countries for how well they protect people from environmental harm and how well they protect ecosystems from human encroachment. It crunches data for nine categories—from air quality to forest and marine health—using 20 indicators in all.
After Switzerland in top place comes Luxembourg, Australia, Singapore, and the Czech Republic. In sixth place, Germany is the first major economy, with the U.K. in 12th. Eighteen of the top 20 countries are in Europe, with Canada in 24th, Japan in 26th, and the U.S. in 33rd.
While richer countries tend to do better in the ranking, some newly prosperous nations come off relatively badly. For example, China is in 118th place and India is in 155th. Russia and Brazil are in 73rd and 77th respectively.
The U.S. has a score of 67.52 out of 100, and ranks well for areas like air quality and sanitation. It falls off in categories like forests, fisheries, and climate.
As well as ranking countries, the report also provides an overall "scorecard" for the environment, showing how trends are going in different directions. On the one hand, 2 billion more people have access to drinking water and decent sanitation now compared to 1990. And increased areas of ocean and land are now protected from development. On the other, air quality is getting worse in many places, and fish stocks are frequently over-exploited. Moreover, "monitoring capability"—representing future ability to stave off damage—is often "distressingly weak," particularly around agriculture and freshwater.
The report was prepared by the Yale University Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Columbia University Center for International Earth Science Information Network. As well as country profiles, the report website also includes a "data explorer" for creating your own charts. It's all well worth a look.