While I agree that HDI has many merits and clearly was an important pioneering achievement in the field (and it still is the most widely used alternative indicator to GDP) it has several aspects that make it inappropriate for use as a wellbeing indicator that can serve as sustainability criterion:
YoGL offers better solutions for all these issues.
Finally, a word on the new Planetary Pressures Adjusted HDI. It accounts for carbon emissions and material footprint as factors reducing HDI. But this does not reflect an attempt to measure how these planetary pressures will actually affect current and future human wellbeing. It simply assumes that somehow these pressures reduce human wellbeing.
The climates on our planet have shown strong changes over its history and there is nothing intrinsically better in the current Holocene climate as compared e.g. to the mid Pliocene climate equilibrium which lasted for 700,000 years and was 3 degrees warmer (something we may be heading for) with the Sahara green and sea level significantly higher. What is the problem with such change is the possible harm the transition can cause to human wellbeing and the problems in adjusting to a new climate.
The better approach – which admittedly is very challenging – is to try to estimate the actual effects of these planetary changes on the wellbeing indicator for different sub-populations in the future. This is the specific purpose for which
YoGL has been designed as a wellbeing indicator.
In the coming two years the project team will make a first quick effort in estimating such feed-backs from planetary changes to changes in human wellbeing. But a more profound analysis of this highly complex issue with many unknowns will clearly become a research priority for the coming decades.
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-University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, Sociology and Animal Studies
Member: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Center for Global Change and Earth Observation, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center
Michigan State University
-Gund Affiliate, Gund Institute for the Environment, University of Vermont
Michigan State University occupies
the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the
Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa,
and Potawatomi peoples. The University resides on Land ceded in the
1819 Treaty of Saginaw.
Thanks for your good points.
As to the first point, just for clarification: YoGL does explicitly include subjective well-being. A year is only counted as a good year, if the person is above minimum levels in subjective life satisfaction, physical and cognitive health and not in absolute
poverty. This specific design based on Boolean algebra avoids giving weights to different components. You are either above the minimum threshold on all four dimensions or this year of life is not counted as a good year of life. There also cannot be any trade-offs,
such as compensating with higher income for lower life satisfaction.
In this sense it is not really a composite indicator, although it reflects longevity conditional to four conditions being met simultaneously.