What does the Report explore by way of new metrics? Among them are new a generation of dashboards including a new dashboard on Human Development and the Anthropocene, as well as metrics that adjust the income component of the HDI to account for the social costs of carbon or natural wealth. Together, they do not aim to make normative judgements about countries. Instead, as with all the other human development metrics, they help countries understand their own progress broadly over time, learn from other countries’ experiences, and raise their ambitions in advancing human development while accounting for people’s interaction with the planet.
The Report presents an adjustment to the HDI for planetary pressures. The PHDI retains the simplicity and clarity of the original HDI while accounting for some of the complex system-level dynamics discussed throughout the Report.
The adjustment corresponds to multiplying the HDI by an adjustment factor, creating the PHDI (diagram below). If a country puts no pressure on the planet, its PHDI and HDI would be equal, but the PHDI falls below the HDI as pressure rises (see animation). The adjustment factor is calculated as the arithmetic mean of indices measuring carbon dioxide emissions per capita, which speaks to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and material footprint per capita, which relates to closing material cycles.
For countries on the lower end of the human development spectrum, the impact of the adjustment is generally small. For high and very high human development countries the impact tends to become large, reflecting the various ways that their development paths impact the planet.
In his great postwar novel The Plague, Albert Camus wrote, “everyone has it inside himself, this plague, because no one in the world, no one, is immune.” If he were writing today, he could have easily been commenting on Covid-19 or climate change, though of course we understand that while everyone is affected, they are not affected equally. But while the stakes for humanity may unfortunately be much higher today than they were some 70 years ago, there is cause for hope—we need no longer be passive recipients of plagues or of development. Fate has been usurped by choice, which in turn is predicated on power. In this brave new geologic epoch of the Anthropocene—in this age of humans—inside our species, and our species uniquely, is the power to reimagine and rebuild our world, to choose justice and sustainability. This 2020 Human Development Report, coming at the close of a tumultuous year of layered global crises, helps signpost the way.