Sunday, February 20, 2005

News Flash: Taiwan at Bottom of Environmental Index

The Taipei Times and other major newspapers reported the other day that Taiwan has perhaps the worst environmental record on the planet, ahead of only Stalinist North Korea. The findings were released by the Environmental Sustainability Index, a joint project of Yale and Columbia. Taiwan was a full 12 spots behind China, which is an empire of environmental disaster. The article had some nasty things to say about Taiwan:

Other analyses, however, show a sobering account of Taiwan's performance in environmental protection. When graphed to show its effectiveness in environmental sustainability relative to GDP per capita, Taiwan stands isolated in a very unfavorable zone on the chart, indicating that while national wealth can be a boost to environmental sustainability, Taiwan proves that it does not guarantee it. Taiwan's position is even lower when charted relative to its economic growth competitiveness, which the World Economic Forum last year placed at fourth globally.
The article cited a former EPA scientist named Winston Dang, now a legislator in Taiwan, whom I knew briefly in the early 1990s when I worked for one of the independence movements' offices in Washington, D.C. Dang "expressed reservations about the quality of the data," which among other things placed Iraq and China ahead of Taiwan. I thought I'd check out the methodology of the report, available on the ESI website above, to see if Dang was simply putting a brave face on things, or whether the numbers were really not as strong as they could be.

One thing that struck me is that the methodology gives great weight to vehicle density, which punishes Taiwan and rewards China. The list of variables not imputed was also interesting. It included the national biodiversity indirx, the percentage of country's territory in threatened ecoregions, threatened mammal species as a percentage of known ones (ditto for birds and amphibians), water quality -- suspended solids, freshwater availability per capital, internal groundwater availability per capita, generation of hazardous waste, waste recycling rates, percentage of country under severe water stress, productivity overfishing, salinized area due to irrigation as a percentage of total arable land, agricultural subsidies, and many others. It appears that a lot of these favor ranking China above Taiwan.

So perhaps there is something to Dang's comments after all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

please note that what many foreigners perceive to be pollution, is merely just humidity. Just because distant mountains cannot be seen, does not mean that there is pollution. Taiwan is a tropical island with high humidity!