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On the use of headline indices to link environmental quality and income at the level of the nation state

Morse, S (2008) On the use of headline indices to link environmental quality and income at the level of the nation state APPLIED GEOGRAPHY, 28 (2). 77 - 95. ISSN 0143-6228

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Abstract

This paper deconstructs the relationship between the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) and national income. The ESI attempts to provide a single figure which encapsulates ‘environmental sustainability’ for each country included in the analysis, and this allied with a ‘league table’ format so as to name and shame bad performers, has resulted in widespread reporting within the popular presses of a number of countries. In essence, the higher the value of the ESI then the more ‘environmentally sustainable’ a country is deemed to be. A logical progression beyond the use of the ESI to publicise environmental sustainability is its use within a more analytical context. Thus an index designed to simplify in order to have an impact on policy is used to try and understand causes of good and bad performance in environmental sustainability. For example the creators of the ESI claim that ESI is related to GDP/capita (adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity) such that the ESI increases linearly with wealth. While this may in a sense be a comforting picture, do the variables within the ESI allow for alternatives to the story, and if they do then what are the repercussions for those producing such indices for broad consumption amongst the policy makers, mangers, the press etc.? The latter point is especially important given the appetite for such indices amongst non-specialists, and for all their weaknesses the ESI and other such aggregated indices will not go away.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Applied Geography. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Applied Geography, 28(2),77-95 April 2008, DOI 10.1016/j.apgeog.2007.07.010.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social Sciences, Geography, Environmental Sustainability Index, environmental quality, Environmental kuznets Curve, KUZNETS CURVE, ECONOMIC-GROWTH, POLLUTION, HYPOTHESIS, INTENSITY, PATTERNS, TRADE, CHINA
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Divisions: Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Centre for Environmental Strategy
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2012 11:48
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2013 19:20
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/351098

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