How green is your native land? The 4th edition of the Global Green Economy Index, produced by private U.S.-based consultancy Dual Citizen LLC, has just been released, and you can look it up. The index provides an in-depth look at how 60 countries and 70 cities are doing in developing more environmentally friendly economies, in actual performance and in how experts perceive their performance.
"We first published the Global Green Economy Index in 2010 guided by a belief that the environment, climate change and green, low-carbon growth would rapidly become defining issues for national policy makers and the global reputation of countries," says the report's introduction. "As we went to press, 2,646 events in nearly 162 countries mobilized pressure on over 100 world leaders gathered in New York at the United Nations to take substantive and binding action on climate change. The link between these issues and the reputation of leaders and nation states is more vivid today than ever before."
The 60 countries covered are a dramatic increase from the 27 included in the last report in 2012. It assessed nations on every continent and found that the Scandinavian countries, along with Germany, were clear leaders. Sweden and Norway headed up the list of actual performance, with Costa Rica ranking third, inside the top 15 for the first time, and Germany and Denmark rounding out the top five. Poland, Senegal, Qatar, Vietnam and Mongolia bring up the rear in slots 56-60, with China just above them at 55. The U.S. came in close to the middle, ranked at 28.
Perception was very different. The study found that some countries got less credit than their green economies merited, while other countries got too much credit for making environmentally friendly moves. Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal and Spain were among the European countries that the index found needed "improved green country branding," along with the African nations of Ethiopia, Mauritius, Rwanda and Zambia, the latter four all covered in the index for the first time.
Other countries, some of the world's most developed nations, including the U.S., Japan, the Netherlands and Australia, get more credit than their lagging performance deserves. The U.S. came in sixth in perception, while Japan, ranked 44th in performance, came in seventh in perception.
On the liability side, the index revealed that some of the world's fastest growing economies aren't growing green economies. In addition to China, rapidly growing countries like Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam are also doing poorly.
Four of the ten greenest cities were, unsurprisingly, in Scandinavia, with Copenhagen in first place, Stockholm in third, Helsinki ninth and Oslo tenth. The top ten was rounded out by Amsterdam (2), Vancouver (4), London (5), Berlin (6), New York (7) and Singapore (8).
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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