On Earth Day, don’t buy into the eco-doomsaying

Environmental Index Report: 2009

What would Earth Day be without hand wringing over the supposedly dire state of the planet?

Concern over climate change seems to have reached a fever pitch. And the American economy has been fingered as the culprit.

President Obama’s recent budget proposal pours a whopping $150 billion into clean energy technologies and another $75 billion into tax incentives for “alternative” energy research. It also includes a national “cap-and-trade” program for greenhouse-gas emissions that would demand an estimated $79 billion from American industry.

Before we commit hundreds of billions of dollars to cleaning up the planet to fight global warming, it’s important check the facts. The United States – and indeed the rest of the world – has made remarkable environmental progress over the last few years.

Take climate change. The climate-induced catastrophes we’ve been conditioned to fear appear to be founded on little more than hype.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, there is “no evidence” of a change “in the severity of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms” over the past few decades. The program’s report also found that over the last 150 years, the rate of U.S. hurricane landfalls has actually been declining.

Indeed, many in the scientific community have begun to speak out against climate change hysteria. Noted physicist Freeman Dyson, for example, blames “lousy science” on global warming for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.”

Among those other dangers is pollution. But America has achieved remarkable success in curbing pollutants, particularly airborne ones.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the nation’s total emissions of six common air pollutants – including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead – dropped 41 percent from 1990 to 2007. And the atmospheric level of chemicals harmful to the ozone fell 12 percent from 1995 through 2006.

Even Los Angeles – the most polluted city in America – has cleaner air. According to the American Lung Association, Los Angeles has experienced a 27 percent drop in particle pollution over the last decade.

There’s good news on the ground, too.

Rainforests are regenerating on previously cleared land throughout the world. Scientists in Central America recently estimated that for every acre of rainforest cut down annually, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in once-barren tropical areas.

In the United States, water quality is improving. Last year, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey sampled 17 major water sources and tested for 258 different man-made chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides. The annual mean concentration of chemicals in all samples was less than the human-health benchmark. Roughly half the chemicals were not present at all in the samples tested.

Cleaner air and water have contributed to the recovery of many marginalized animal communities.

The Northern Rockies’ grey wolf population has jumped from 66 to nearly 1,500 over the last 13 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describes the repopulation as “a remarkable conservation success story” and is in the process of removing the animal from the Endangered Species List.

The Lake Erie water snake – currently classified as a “threatened” species – has also staged a comeback. Since 1988, the snake’s population has jumped tenfold, from 1,200 to 12,000.

In many ways, environmental alarmism is beginning to backfire. Recent polls revealed that 58 percent of respondents declined to identify themselves as environmentalists. By contrast, 78 percent of those interviewed identified themselves as environmentalists as recently as 1991.

This Earth Day ought to be a day of celebration – not consternation. America has made tremendous strides in making the planet cleaner and safer – and is set to continue to do so.
Sally C. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, which publishes the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators each year on Earth Day.

*This article is scheduled to appear in the following publications. The title of the article may vary.

Antwerp Bee-Argus (Antwerp, OH): April 2009
Bellmore Life (Merrick, NY), April 22, 2009
Boise City News (Boise City, OK): April 2009
Carbon County News (Red Lodge, MT): April 2009
Central Kentucky News-Journal (Campbellsville, KY), April 19, 2009
Clearwater Gazette (Clearwater, FL), April 23, 2009
Condon Times-Journal (Condon, OR): April 2009
Emery County Progress (Castle Dale, UT): June 9, 2009
Eunice News (Eunice, LA): April 2009
Fairfield Sun Times (Fairfield, MT), April 22, 2009
Gardena Valley News (Gardena, CA), April 23, 2009
Holbrook Tribune-News (Holbrook, AZ), April 22, 2009
Jewish Leader (New London, CT): April 24, 2009
Journal-Express (Knoxville, IA): April 2009
Mahnomen Pioneer (Mahnomen, MN), April 23, 2009
Messenger Post Newspapers (Pittsford, NY), April 21, 2009
Panorama Latino (College Station, TX): April 21, 2009
Pilot-Independent (Walker, MN), April 22, 2009
Prevailer News (Hill City, SD): April 2009
Raymond-Prinsburg News (Raymond, MN), April 22, 2009
Robertson County Newspapers (Hearne, TX): April 2009
Rockland Review (West Nyack, NY), April 24, 2009
Seneca News-Dispatch (Seneca, MO), April 21, 2009
Spanish Journal (Milwaukee, WI), April 22, 2009
Silver Creek Herald (Holbrook, AZ), April 22, 2009
Tama News-Herald (Tama, IA): April 2009
Texas Mohair Weekly (Rocksprings, TX): April 23, 2009
The Ely Times (Ely, NV), April 22, 2009
The Bridgeport Leader (Bridgeport, IL), April 16, 2009
The Independent Press (Forsyth, MT): April 2009
The Trinity Journal (Weaverville, CA), April 23, 2009
Tinytown Gazette (Cohasset, MA), April 29, 2009
Utica Shelby Source (Shelby Township, MI), April 19, 2009

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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