NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 22, 2005

Environmentalists are quick to admonish, "Every Day is Earth Day" -- a mild reproach to the general public that everyone ought to daily consider how their actions affect the planet. While a variety of environmental problems exist, the fact is that the environment has improved markedly since the first Earth Day in 1970, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

For 10 years now, the Pacific Research Institute in conjunction with the American Enterprise Institute has published an annual "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators."

Among the good news this year is that air pollution is at an all time low:

  • The 2005 Index shows that since 1976, aggregate emission of air pollutants measured by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all substantially declined.
  • Indeed, pick a pollutant, its levels have declined: Ozone is down 31 percent; sulfur dioxide is down 72 percent; nitrogen dioxide is down 42 percent, carbon monoxide is down 76 percent, particulates are down 31 percent and lead has declined 98 percent.
  • For the first time since air pollution has been monitored, virtually the entire nation has achieved clean air standards for four of the six pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Much of the decline is due to the fact that cars are getting cleaner every year. Indeed, the EPA estimates that emissions from the auto fleet will decline by more than 80 percent over the next 25 years.

Environmental improvement is a worthwhile goal and more should and will be done. However, the public ought to celebrate how much the environment has improved. And if any day is a good day for that, Earth Day certainly is, says Burnett.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "Every Day Is Earth Day," Washington Times, April 22, 2005; and Steven F. Hayward, "2005 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators," Pacific Research Institute, April 2005.


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