Tenth Anniversary Edition
Autor: Steven Hayward,Michael De Alessi and Joel Schwartz Fuente: Pacific Research Institute

What has changed in the decade since the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) launched the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

In the 1990s, most Americans believed environmental quality was declining. Today, 71 percent of us are “happy” with the quality of the environment where we live, according to a Harris poll. And another recent Harris poll, commissioned by PRI, reports that the majority of those surveyed are optimistic about environmental progress in the next decade.

PRI’s survey also revealed that 74 percent of respondents think cars are less polluting now than they were 25 years ago. In this case, opinion is certainly an accurate reflection of reality. Emission reductions helped the entire nation achieve clean air standards for four of the six “criteria” pollutants in 2004.

Cities with the dirtiest air were the ones showing the greatest improvements. Four of the top five most-improved are in southern California. And while ozone still exceeds the standards, it was at its lowest level ever last year.

The good news is that air pollution is predicted to continue declining. The EPA’s own emissions models project that emissions from the auto fleet will decline by more than 80 percent over the next 25 years.

Perhaps such dramatic improvements have made us all look at things a bit differently. While we still care about the environment, maybe we are “just not that into” the environmentalists and their scare stories anymore. Global warming now scores lowest among the public’s environmental hot buttons. And there is widespread understanding, and acceptance, of the view that economic growth and freedom are essential pre requisites for environmental health.

As PRI’s tenth anniversary edition of the Index shows, there are many reasons to celebrate this Earth Day.
- According to the EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI), air quality has improved an average of 53 percent in the 10 cities that had the worst air pollution in 1990.
- The “hockey-stick” graph, believed to be one of the leading indicators of global warming, is now being called “rubbish”. Scientists have shown that the graph’s underlying equation would generate the same result for any series of random umbers.
- The arctic today, though warmer than it was in 1970, is colder than it was in 1930. In fact, temperatures in Greenland have fallen over the last 15 years.
- Recent concerns about the safety of fish due to high mercury levels have abated thanks to guidance published in 2004 by the EPA which emphasizes that “for most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern.”
- Some experts suggest that the “list” approach in evaluating species is too narrow. Researchers have developed a biodiversity index that evaluates data on land use, ecosystem extent, species richness, and population abundance. Applied to seven countries in southern Africa, this “Biological Intactness Index” estimates biota in the region at 84 percent of their pre-modern level.
- The overall trend since 1988 is one of declining toxic releases, a sign of increasing efficiency and the “de-materialization” of our economy.
- From 1997 to 2002, wetlands on private land expanded by about 26,000 acres per year. This does not include increases on federal lands. Overall, it appears there is no longer a net loss of wetlands acreage within the contiguous United States.
- Forest area has been stable for nearly a century, rising slightly over the past decade in both the United States and Europe. Forestland in Europe expanded by 1.1 million acres between 1990 and 2000; it grew about four times faster in the United States, at a rate of 9.5 million acres.
Haz politica es una publicación que promueve la participación política del ciudadano y su intervención en los asuntos públicos que atañen a la familia con su acción, su opinión y su voto.
Derechos reservados -  Solo: