As this report and others like it have explored for more than a decade, environmental improvement in the United States has been substantial and dramatic, almost across the board. The chief drivers of this improvement are economic growth, constantly increasing resource efficiency, technological innovation in pollution control, and the deepening of environmental values among the American public.
Government regulation has played a central role, to be sure, but in the grand scheme of things it is a lagging indicator of change, and often achieves results at needlessly high cost. Were it not for rising affluence and technological innovation, regulation would have much the same effect as King Canute commanding the tides.
This edition of the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators picks up the gauntlet of climate change and energy use and aims to provide a more probative picture of environmental realities today. The superior GHG performance of the United States in recent years opens onto a range of important factors that deserve closer scrutiny.
The Index concentrates on energy and environmental linkages among the leading developed and developing nations, in particular the 15 nations President George W. Bush has convened to deliberate about climate change. A more fine-grained look at the data reveals a different picture from the clichés of the media and activists.