It is beyond question that as world population grows and countries modernize, global environmental systems come under greater pressure. It is also incontestable that the radical environmental movement has used these developments to justify a near hysterical, doomsday worldview that it feel justifies draconian action against producers and consumers. In this view, our air, land, and water are under constant assault from the ever-growing ravages of man-made pollution generated chiefly by industrialized societies. Radical action is required to insure our basic survival as a species. By claiming to be “scientific consensus” and refusing to allow other viewpoints into the discussion, this ideologically driven exaggeration actually impedes rather encourages a sober and productive discussion of our global future. According to the 2009 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators report from the Pacific Research Institute, a fair and balanced audit of the state of the world environment shows that the facts do not justify the extreme actions demanded by radical environmentalism:
- Tropical rainforests may now be expanding faster than they are being cut down, though more data are needed to determine the nature and extent of reforestation trends.
- The world’s most severe environmental problems are overwhelmingly problems of poverty in developing nations.
- No American or Western European city ranks among the top 50 cities in the world for air pollution.
- Air pollution levels are falling in the 10 most polluted cities in the United States, by as much as 27 percent over the last decade in the case of fine particulates in Los Angeles.
- Recent ice-core studies have found that levels of heavy metals in the atmosphere declined substantially during the 20th century, although heavy metal levels could rise again with increasing use of coal in Asia.
- Stratospheric ozone, the “good” kind of ozone—akin to “good” cholesterol in blood—appears to have reversed its long-term decline and is now increasing over the United States. The level of ozone-destroying chemical compounds in the atmosphere declined by 12 percent from 1995 through 2006.
- Water-quality monitoring efforts are gaining momentum. The U.S. Geological Survey sampling of drinking water drawn from surface waters in 17 areas around the continental United States found very low (nonhazardous) or no presence of 258 different man-made chemicals.
- The health of U.S. ocean fisheries has improved substantially over the last few years, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service’s “Fish Stock Sustainability Index.”
- Flat or declining global average temperatures in 2008 ignited new controversy over climate change. The data show that 2008 was the coolest year since 2000, and there has been no discernible warming for the last decade, after two decades of steady warming between 1978 and 1998.
- Arctic sea ice levels rebounded from the all-time modern low observed in 2007.
- The global ambient level of carbon dioxide rose by 0.5 percent in 2008, a slight increase over the average annual rate of the last 25 years, to 385 parts per million.
- U.S. carbon dioxide emissions rose 76 million tons in 2007, after having fallen 81 million tons in 2006. Most of this increase was attributable to colder weather in the winter of 2007.