Srinivasan, Norgaard and their colleagues reported their results this week in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"In the past half century, humanity has transformed our natural environment at an unprecedented speed and scale," Srinivasan said, noting that the Earth's population doubled in the past 50 years to 6.5 billion as the average per-capita gross world product also doubled. "What we dont know is which nations around the world are really driving the ecological damages and which are paying the price."
Norgaard said that the largest environmental impact by far is from climate change, which has been assessed in previous studies. The current study broadens the assessment to include other significant human activities with environmental costs and thus provides a context for the earlier studies.
The study makes clear, for example, that while deforestation and agricultural intensification primarily impact the host country, the impacts from climate change and ozone depletion are spread widely over all nations.
"Low-income countries will bear significant burdens from climate change and ozone depletion. But these environmental problems have been overwhelmingly driven by emission of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting chemicals by the rest of the world," Srinivasan said.
Climate change is expected to increase the severity of storms and extreme weather, including prolonged droughts and flooding, with an increase in infectious diseases. Ozone depletion mostly impacts health, with increases expected in cancer rates, cataracts and blindness All of these will affect vulnerable low-income countries disproportionately.
In addition to
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University of California - Berkeley