Modern society uses massive amounts of energy. Usage rises as population and affluence increase,and energy production and use often have an impact on biodiversity or natural areas. To avoid a business-as-usual dependence on coal, oil, and gas over the coming decades, society must map out a future energy mix that incorporates alternative sources. This exercise can lead to radically different opinions on what a sustainable energy portfolio might entail, so an objective assessment of the relative costs and benefits of different energy sources is required.

Environmental protection is critical to maintain ecosystem services essential for human well-being. It is important to be able to rank countries by their environmental impact so that poor performers as well as policy ‘models’ can be identified.

A recent evaluation of relative environmental impact of countries published in PLoS ONE. Finds that 10 countries with the worst global footprint are Brazil, US, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Australia & Peru.