Skip to navigation

Skip to main content

Rural Migration News

contact us

HDR 2020: The Age of Humans

 Click here to download this blog post as a PDF file

January 12, 2021

The UN’s Development Program has since 1990 issued an annual Human Development Report that explores a particular socioeconomic topic. The purpose of the HDR is to raise “awareness about human development around the world.”

The 2020 HDR highlights the need to deal with the impacts of human activities on natural systems. The HDR warns that humankind is on the cusp of a new global epoch, the Anthropocene or the era when human activities alter natural systems, perhaps irreversibly. The HDR calls for changing the trajectory of economic development to minimize the competition between the needs of people and the needs of the planet.

The three-part report reviews the impacts of human activities on natural systems, lays out a framework to reduce the negative impacts of human activities on the environment, and develops a revised Human Development Index that accounts for each country’s impacts on the natural world.

Impacts. HDR 2020 argues that Covid-19, extreme weather events, wildfires, and species extinctions are nature’s warning signs that are flashing red to suggest an urgent need to reduce human impacts on natural systems. The report argues that social inequalities aggravate planetary or natural imbalances, citing a list of indicators that range from declining social mobility to rising authoritarianism.

Social inequalities aggravate natural imbalances

The current Holocene era began when the end of the ice age 12,000 years ago led to the rise of agriculture and civilization. During the Holocene era, humans adapted to nature. In the new Anthropocene era, human activities are reshaping nature.

One of the best-known features of the HDR is its Human Development Index, which assembles indicators of health, education, and income to rank countries. The HDR argues that the empty rectangle C in the figure below is where countries should be, with a high HDI and a low material footprint on the environment. In fact, high HDI countries are in rectangle B with high material footprints. If the developing countries now in rectangle A move to B as well, the natural world will be changed.

Richer countries with higher HDIs (B) have larger impacts on natural systems

The 2020 HDR includes a Planetary-Pressures Adjusted HDI that eliminates over 50 countries from the very high human development group because of their dependence on fossil fuels and materials that alter natural systems. The richer countries with high HDIs (dark green) rank significantly lower on the PP HDI because of their greater impacts on natural systems. Note that countries whose ranking on the HDI is the same as their ranking on the PP HDI are on the 45-degree line.

Richer countries with high HDIs have lower PP HDIs because of their impacts on the environment

The report places more emphasis on reducing carbon emissions and material usage than on population growth. The HDR emphasizes that urbanization may slow population growth and reduce energy and materials usage, citing studies of insects that show larger termite mounds use less energy and materials per capita.

The world’s population of almost 8 billion is growing by 1% a year

Change. HDR 2020 cites polls that suggest most people understand that human activities are changing natural systems. Most respondents agree that individuals should change behavior to reduce negative human impacts on the environment. The report calls on governments to subsidize sustainable policies by promoting the development of low-carbon power emitters such as renewables.

Sustainable policies (dark green) require more government subsidies

The report emphasizes inequalities between rich and poor countries. Rich countries contribute most to the global warming that aggravates extreme weather and other conditions that disproportionately affect people in poorer countries. Mortality from climate change is projected to be larger in poorer countries in 2100.

Mortality risks from climate change are highest in poorer countries

The 2020 report adjusts the HDI for each country’s planetary pressure. The Scandinavian countries that are at the top of the regular HDI are also at the top of the PP HDI, but countries such as Canada and the US fall in the shift from the HDI to the PP HDI, while middle-income countries such as Costa Rica rise on the PP HDI.

Norway ranks highest on the HDI, but Ireland ranks highest on the PP HDI

Norway ranks highest on the HDI, but Ireland ranks highest on the PP HDI
  SDG 9.4   SDG 8.4, 12.2  
  Human Development Index (HDI) Planetary pressures–adjusted HDI (PHDI) Adjustment factor for planetary pressures Carbon dioxide emissions per capita (production) Carbon dioxide emissions (production) index Material footprint per capita Material footprint index
Value Value Difference from HDI value (%) Difference from HDI rank Value (tonnes) Value (tonnes) Value
HDI Rank 2019 2019 2019 2019 2019 2018 2018 2017 2017
Very high human development
1 Norway 0.957 0.781 18.4 –15 0.816 8.3 0.881 37.9 0.752
2 Ireland 0.955 0.833 12.8 1 0.872 8.1 0.884 21.5 0.859
2 Switzerland 0.955 0.825 13.6 0 0.864 4.3 0.938 32.1 0.790
4 Hong Kong, China (SAR) 0.949 .. .. .. .. 5.9 0.916 .. ..
4 Iceland 0.949 0.768 19.1 –26 0.809 10.8 0.846 34.8 0.772
6 Germany 0.947 0.814 14.0 –1 0.859 9.1 0.869 23.0 0.849
7 Sweden 0.945 0.817 13.5 1 0.865 4.1 0.941 32.2 0.789
8 Australia 0.944 0.696 26.3 –72 0.737 16.9 0.758 43.4 0.716
8 Netherlands 0.944 0.794 15.9 –6 0.842 9.5 0.864 27.7 0.819
10 Denmark 0.940 0.824 12.3 5 0.876 6.1 0.913 24.6 0.839
11 Finland 0.938 0.770 17.9 –19 0.821 8.5 0.878 36.1 0.763
11 Singapore 0.938 0.656 30.1 –92 0.700 7.1 0.898 76.1 0.501
13 United Kingdom 0.932 0.825 11.5 10 0.885 5.6 0.919 22.7 0.851
14 Belgium 0.931 0.800 14.1 4 0.859 8.7 0.876 24.1 0.842
14 New Zealand 0.931 0.808 13.2 6 0.867 7.3 0.895 24.5 0.840
16 Canada 0.929 0.721 22.4 –40 0.776 15.3 0.781 34.9 0.771
17 United States 0.926 0.718 22.5 –45 0.775 16.6 0.763 32.5 0.787
18 Austria 0.922 0.771 16.4 –11 0.837 7.7 0.889 32.9 0.784
19 Israel 0.919 0.797 13.3 7 0.867 7.7 0.890 23.9 0.843
19 Japan 0.919 0.781 15.0 2 0.850 9.1 0.869 25.9 0.830
19 Liechtenstein 0.919 .. .. .. .. 4.0 0.942 .. ..
22 Slovenia 0.917 0.800 12.8 11 0.873 6.9 0.901 23.7 0.845
23 Korea (Republic of) 0.916 0.746 18.6 –19 0.814 12.9 0.816 28.6 0.813
23 Luxembourg 0.916 0.495 46.0 –131 0.541 15.9 0.773 105.6 0.308
25 Spain 0.904 0.795 12.1 11 0.880 5.7 0.918 24.1 0.842
26 France 0.901 0.801 11.1 16 0.889 5.2 0.926 22.5 0.853
27 Czechia 0.900 0.768 14.7 –5 0.853 9.9 0.858 23.0 0.849
28 Malta 0.895 0.794 11.3 13 0.887 3.6 0.948 26.5 0.826
29 Estonia 0.892 0.711 20.3 –40 0.797 14.8 0.788 29.6 0.806
29 Italy 0.892 0.792 11.2 12 0.888 5.6 0.920 21.9 0.857
31 United Arab Emirates 0.890 0.609 31.6 –87 0.685 21.3 0.694 49.6 0.675
32 Greece 0.888 0.768 13.5 0 0.865 7.0 0.899 25.8 0.831
33 Cyprus 0.887 0.767 13.5 –2 0.865 6.3 0.910 27.5 0.820
34 Lithuania 0.882 0.746 15.4 –8 0.846 4.8 0.931 36.3 0.762
35 Poland 0.880 0.752 14.5 –5 0.855 9.1 0.870 24.5 0.839
36 Andorra 0.868 .. .. .. .. 6.1 0.912 .. ..
37 Latvia 0.866 0.777 10.3 9 0.897 3.7 0.947 23.2 0.848
38 Portugal 0.864 0.780 9.7 15 0.903 5.0 0.929 18.7 0.878
39 Slovakia 0.860 0.720 16.3 –21 0.837 6.6 0.905 35.3 0.769
40 Hungary 0.854 0.781 8.5 21 0.915 5.1 0.926 14.9 0.903
40 Saudi Arabia 0.854 0.707 17.2 –33 0.827 18.4 0.736 12.4 0.919
42 Bahrain 0.852 0.691 18.9 –42 0.811 19.8 0.717 14.4 0.906
43 Chile 0.851 0.774 9.0 14 0.910 4.6 0.934 17.5 0.885
43 Croatia 0.851 0.779 8.5 19 0.916 4.5 0.936 16.0 0.895
45 Qatar 0.848 0.581 31.5 –84 0.685 38.0 0.456 13.2 0.913
46 Argentina 0.845 0.778 7.9 20 0.920 4.4 0.937 14.7 0.904
47 Brunei Darussalam 0.838 0.672 19.8 –49 0.802 18.5 0.735 20.0 0.869
48 Montenegro 0.829 0.738 11.0 –1 0.890 3.2 0.954 26.7 0.825
49 Romania 0.828 0.760 8.2 11 0.917 3.8 0.946 16.9 0.889
50 Palau 0.826 .. .. .. .. 13.2 0.811 .. ..
51 Kazakhstan 0.825 0.672 18.5 –46 0.815 17.6 0.749 18.1 0.881
52 Russian Federation 0.824 0.728 11.7 –4 0.883 11.7 0.832 9.9 0.935

References

UNDP. 2020. The next frontier: Human development and the Anthropocene.


Subscribe via Email

Click here to subscribe to Rural Migration News via email.