This is perhaps the single greatest misinformation campaign in world history. Virtually none of these claims are even close to the truth—except for the fact that our climate is always changing as it has for hundreds of thousands of years.
Since the first Earth Day back in the 1970s, the environmentalists—those who worship the creation rather than the Creator—have issued one false prediction of Armageddon after another. Yet despite a batting average approaching zero, the media and our schools keep parroting their declinism as if they were oracles rather than proven shysters.
Here are the factual realities that we should be celebrating on Earth Day.
1) Natural resources are more abundant and affordable today than ever before in history. Short-term (sometimes decades-long) volatility aside, the price of most natural resources—from cocoa to cotton to coal—is cheaper today in real terms than 50, 100, or 500 years ago. This has happened even as the world’s population has nearly tripled. Technology has far outpaced depletion of the Earth’s resources.
2) Energy—the master resource—is super abundant. Remember when people like Paul Ehrlich nearly 50 years ago and Barack Obama just three years ago—warned that we were running out of oil and gas. Today, thanks to the new age of oil and gas, thanks to fracking, the United States has hundreds of years of petroleum and an estimated 290 years of coal. Keep in mind, this may be a low-ball estimate; since 2000, the Energy Information Administration’s estimates of recoverable reserves have actually increased by more than 7 percent.
We’re not running out of energy, we are running into it.
3) Air and water. Since the late 1970s, pollutants in the air have plunged. Lead pollution plunged by more than 90 percent, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide by more than 50 percent, with ozone and nitrogen dioxide declining as well. This means that emissions per capita have declined even as the economy in terms of real GDP nearly tripled. By nearly every standard measure it is much, much, much cleaner today in the United States than 50 and 100 years ago. The air is so clean now that the EPA worries about carbon dioxide which isn’t even a pollutant. (And, by the way, carbon emissions are falling too, thanks to fracking). One hundred years ago, about one in four deaths in the U.S. was due to contaminants in drinking water. But from 1971-2002, fewer than three people per year in the U.S. were documented to have died from water contamination.
4) There is no Malthusian nightmare of overpopulation. Birth rates have fallen by about one-half around the world over the last 50 years. Developed countries are having too few kids, not too many. Even with a population of 7.3 billion people, average incomes, especially in poor countries, have surged over the last 40 years. The number of people in abject poverty fell by 1 billion from 1981 to 2011, even as global population increased by more than 1.5 billion.
5) Global per capita food production is 40 percent higher today than as recently as 1950. In most nations the nutrition problem today is obesity—too many calories consumed—not hunger. The number of famines and related deaths over the last 100 years has fallen in half. More than 12 million lives on average were lost each decade from the 1920s-1960s to famine. Since then, fewer than 4 million lives on average per decade were lost. Tragically, these famines are often caused by political corruption—not nature. Furthermore, the price of food has fallen steadily in the U.S.—and most other nations steadily for 200 years.
6) The rate of death and physical destruction from natural disasters or severe weather changes has plummeted over the last 50 to 100 years. Loss of life from hurricanes, floods, heat, droughts, and so on is at or near record lows. This is because we have much better advance warning systems, our infrastructure is much more durable, and we have things like air conditioning, to adapt to weather changes. We are constantly discovering new ways to harness and even tame nature.
Earth Day should be a day of joy and celebration that life on this bountiful planet is better than anytime in human history. The state of the planet has never been in such fine shape by almost every objective measure. The Chicken Littles are as wrong today as they were 50 years ago. This is very good news for those who believe that one of our primary missions as human beings is to make life better over time and to leave our planet better off for future generations.
Happy Earth Day.
Stephen Moore, who formerly wrote on the economy and public policy for The Wall Street Journal, is a distinguished visiting fellow for the Project for Economic Growth at The Heritage Foundation.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Heritage Foundation.