NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Predictions of Environmental Doom Disproved

October 3, 2001

A recent book by a self-described "man of the left" and former member of Greenpeace, Danish professor Bjorn Lomborg, set out to prove what he called "The Litany": our resources are running out, population is growing and leaving us with less to eat, air and water are becoming ever more polluted and the ecosystem is breaking down. But he wound up proving the opposite, and demonstrating economic growth is the friend of the natural world, not its enemy. In "The Skeptical Environmentalist," he reports:

  • Despite dire predictions of worldwide famines in the '70s and '80s, since 1960 the average amount of food per person in developing countries has gone up 38 percent.
  • Meanwhile the percentage of malnourished poor people has fallen from 35 percent to 18 percent -- and will drop another six percentage points in 10 years.
  • Regarding air pollution, sulfur dioxide is down 80 percent in the U.S. since 1962, carbon monoxide is down 75 percent since 1970, and nitrogen oxides are off 38 percent since 1975.
  • Global forests have been reduced by a minuscule 0.44 percent since 1960 -- and the Brazilian rain forests remain 86 percent uncut -- with the rate of clearing falling.

As for global warming, temperatures aren't increasing as fast as computer models say they should. Yet a draconian Kyoto-like reduction in fossil fuel use would cost humanity between $107 trillion and $274 trillion over the next century -- costing people in developing countries 75 percent of their income growth.

Yet doomsaying media and radical environmentalists stick with the old myths -- and create new ones. The Earth Island Journal traced all terrorist attacks on the U.S. back to oil, and argued the solution to terrorism was "to transform our economy into one that operates on clean, renewable energy."

Source: Ronald Bailey, "Why All Those Dire Predictions Have No Future," Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2001.

For WSJ (requires subscription)


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