"Between 1980 and 1989, some four
billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish [from
"Civilization will end within 15
or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems
Prophesies foretelling the end of the world? No, predictions by
environmentalists celebrating the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.
They were wrong. 65 million Americans
haven't starved to death. Food production has handily outpaced
population growth. Food today is cheaper and more abundant than
As readers may suspect, civilization has
Undaunted, the environmental left continues
to sound the alarm. The supposed threat now is dirty air, the
extinction of plants and animals and, to put it bluntly, President
Bush, who is vilified for opposing U.S. ratification of the Kyoto
global warming treaty, among other supposed sins.
Like the aforementioned environmentalist
claims of 1970, many modern day environ-mental scare stories are
Sierra Club officials, for instance, claim
millions of Americans breathe dirty air4 and that smog
and other pollutants cause six million asthma attacks each summer.5
Incidences of asthma have risen, but as air pollution levels have
gone down. Scientists have found that asthma is largely related
Since 1970, the six principal air pollutants
tracked nationally have been cut by 25 percent. During that time,
our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - the total market value of all
the goods and services produced within the United States - has
increased 161 percent while energy consumption increased 42 percent.7 Energy
consumption per dollar GDP has declined at an average rate of
1.7 percent during the last 25 years.8
This means that America's success in combating
air pollution since the first Earth Day is far, far greater than
it seems at first glance.
Environmentalists tout the necessity of
protecting plants and animals through vigorous enforcement of
the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Preserving species is a noble
goal, but the ESA isn't doing the job. Of the 1,254 species listed
as endangered since the ESA enacted in 1973, only 33 have been
taken off the list. Twelve of the 33 were removed due to erroneous
population counts or data entry errors,9 so less than
one percent were recovered over the last 30 years. Meanwhile,
ESA enforcement costs consumers and taxpayers an estimated more
than $1 billion a year in litigation, lost profits, lost jobs
and rising business and governmental operational costs.10
The environmental left fervently supports
the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement designed to cut
carbon dioxide emissions to slow the global warming most environmentalists
say is taking place.
If the environmentalists are right about
the existence and cause of global warming, they have much to answer
for, as there is more air than substance to be found in Kyoto.
The treaty would have little real impact on climate change. If
it is implemented and works exactly as the environmentalists predict,
it would avert only 0.06 degrees Celsius of global warming by
Kyoto would, however, have a devastating
effect on the American economy. The federal Energy Information
Administration has estimated that, if implemented, the Kyoto Protocol
would raise gas prices 14 to 66 cents a gallon by 2010, electricity
prices by 20 to 86 percent12 and cost the United States economy $400 billion
per year.13 Independent studies say it also would force many
into unemployment, with minorities being particularly hard-hit:
864,000 blacks and 511,000 Hispanics would lose their jobs.14
As in 1970, today's environmental movement
relies on wild-eyed doom-and-gloom predictions to shock people
into supporting what too often is a radical agenda unsupported
by sound science. The movement fails to recognize accomplishments
that have been made and supports programs that cost billions -
yet don't perform as advertised when it comes to solving environmental
Those of us who truly believe the environment
is important owe it to the cause to review the hard science behind
environmentalist claims and to consider if the environ-mentalists'
proposed solutions would actually work.
We also owe it to our countrymen - particularly
those who are economically disadvantaged - to take into the account
the often multi-billion dollar price tags of environmental programs,
and make certain that the poorest among us are not bearing a disproportionate
share of the costs.
We do neither our environment nor our
country a service if we celebrate Earth Day by believing every
outrageous claim peddled by environmentalist advocacy groups.
Christopher Burger is the program coordinator
for The National Center's John P. McGovern, M.D. Center for Environmental
and Regulatory Affairs of The National Center for Public Policy
Research. Comments may be sent to CBurger@nationalcenter.org.
1 Paul Ehrlich, in the Earth
Day edition of The Progressive, as cited by Ronald Bailey, "Earth
Day, Then and Now," Reason magazine, May 2000, available
at http://reason.com/0005/fe.rb.earth.shtml as of March 31, 2003.
2 Harvard biologist George Wald, in a speech at Swarthmore College
on April 19, 1970, as quoted by Ronald Bailey, "Earth Day,
Then and Now," Reason magazine, May 2000, available at http://reason.com/0005/fe.rb.earth.shtml
as of March 31, 2003.
3 Ronald Bailey, "Earth Day, Then and Now," Reason magazine,
May 2000, available at http://reason.com/0005/fe.rb.earth.shtml
as of March 31, 2003.
4 "The Sierra Club Clean Air Program," Sierra Club,
San Francisco, California, available at http://www.sierraclub.org/cleanair
as of March 31, 2003.
5 "The Sierra Club - More Environmental Issues," Sierra
Club, San Francisco, California, available at http://www.sierraclub.org/environment/more_issues.asp
as of March 31, 2003.
6 Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University
Press, 2001), p. 187.
7 "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2001 Status and
Trends," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of
Air Quality, Washington, D.C., available at http://www.epa.gov/air/aqtrnd01/index.html
as of March 4, 2003.
8 Steven Hayward, "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators
2001," Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, San
Francisco, California, 2001, p. 42.
9 "Delisted Species Report as of 3/27/02," U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C., available at http://ecos.fws.gov/webpage/webpage_delisted.html?%listings=0
as of March 18, 2003.
10 "Hansen Files Landmark Bill to Restore Original Intent
of ESA," press release, Office of Congressman James Hansen
(R-UT), Washington, D.C., November 12, 2002, available at http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/press/2002/2002_1112ESA.htm
as of March 25, 2003.
11 "EPW: Climate Change," e-mail communication, Committee
on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.,
March 27, 2003.
12 Jay E. Hakes, Administrator, Energy Information Administration,
Testimony before the Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives,
Washington, D.C., October 9, 1998.
13 John Carlisle, "President Bush Must Kill the Kyoto Global
Warming Treaty and Oppose Efforts to Regulate Carbon Dioxide,"
National Policy Analysis #328, The National Center for Public
Policy Research, Washington, D.C., February 2001, available at
14 "Study Says Global Warming Treaty Will Hurt U.S. Minorities,"
Associated Press, July 6, 2000, cited by John Carlisle, "Treaty
to Combat Unproven Global Warming Threat Would Hurt Americans'
Standard of Living," National Policy Analysis #309, The National
Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C., September
2000, available at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA309.html.