Time for a Gross National Product for the Environment?

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Image courtesy of LoopZilla

The economy has the gross national product to track its health. Shouldn't the environment have its own system of analogous indicators? That, in essence, was the principal recommendation made by a review panel commissioned by several government agencies.

A pilot project aimed at establishing a national system of environmental indicators could start by creating a national indicator for water quantity, the panel suggested, to help better coordinate federal and state efforts in the drought-stricken regions of the South and Southwest. Eventually, the system could encompass dozens of indicators, looking at everything from air quality to urban land-use. The hope is that it would impose a certain measure of consistency between agencies and different levels of government. Predictably, reaction to the report was mixed as some argued that national indicators - though helpful for top policymakers - could prove to be less than useful for local officials. "Water use is local," said Ted Heinz, a member of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Indeed, while certain measures may ultimately be better tailored to local needs, there is a case to be made for any indicator that could help governments more effectively track their progress in reaching their environmental goals. Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of such a system is that it would help insulate environmental monitoring from the vagaries (and excesses) of political leadership. Assuming it's a broad-based effort involving independent-minded scientists and policymakers from various agencies, it could prove to be a crucial tool.

Via ::Science Magazine: Panel Calls for Pilot Program for National Indicators (scientific journal, sub. required)

See also: ::Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index, ::Be Prepared: For Climate Protection Policy Making

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