Cleanest Places On Earth – I promised I would follow up

I had my doubts on Friday whether I would find any lists of the cleanest anything. But if a polluter advocate like Forbes has them, everyone must.


The Cleanest Countries In The World

Christopher Helman, 04.21.10, 12:00 PM EDT

Europeans getting a shower of ash might disagree, but researchers rate Iceland tops in environmental performance.

Iceland is the cleanest country in the world. This may be hard to believe right now, what with the clouds of volcanic ash grounding flights across northern Europe, but according to researchers at Yale and Columbia universities, the Nordic island ranks first out of 163 countries on their Environmental Performance Index.

Researchers ranked countries based on 25 indicators, including water and air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of the environment on the health of the population. (For more detail on the methodology, click here.) A score of 100 is excellent. Sierra Leone ranks at the bottom of the list with a score of 32. The U.S. ranks in the middle of the pack with 63.5. Iceland took top honors with a score of 93.5 thanks to ample clean water, lots of protected nature areas, good national health care and a plenitude of usually clean geothermal power.

Slideshow: The World’s 10 Cleanest Countries

Will Eyjafjallajokull wreck Iceland’s rating the next time the academics run the numbers in 2012? The answer is no. “We do not score natural disasters,” says Daniel Esty, a professor of environmental law at Yale who heads up the EPI and wrote the acclaimed book Green to Gold. The index is weighted to metrics that track how governments are performing relative to environmental policy goals, such as access to adequate sanitation and water, habitat protection and industrial emissions. The amount of sulfur dioxide released from fuel usage counts, not what’s put out by volcanoes.

There are two paths that can take a country to the top of the EPI rankings. First, a country could be gifted with a rich endowment of clean water, diverse biology and not have sullied it with rampant industrialism. That’s how Cuba, Colombia and Costa Rica placed so high.

Alternatively, a country could have industrialized and polluted its environment, but eventually gotten rich enough to start cleaning it up. That’s the case with the European countries that make up more than half of the top 30.


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