Happy Earth Day

Steve Hayward begins his Earth Day column with a political scientist’s point about left-wing panics:

More than 30 years ago political scientist Anthony Downs discerned what he called the “issue-attention cycle,” a five-stage process by which the public and especially the news media grow alarmed over an issue, agitate for action, generate piles of scary headlines, and then begin to draw back as we come to recognize that the problem has been exaggerated or misconceived, and the price tag for action comes in. While Downs thought that the issue-attention cycle for the environment would last longer than most issues, it appears the mother-of-all-environmental scares — global warming — is following his model and is going to begin to fade like other environmental alarms of the past such as the population bomb and the “we’re running out of everything” scares.

Steve adds: “The current media and political blitz on Capitol Hill for government controls on energy production are the product of the panic felt by environmentalists who realize that opinion polls show the public is climbing off global warming bandwagon.” As for me, I have adult-onset issue-attention deficit disorder. I tuned out around the time that Julian Simon won his famous wager with Paul Ehrlich regarding resource scarcity.

Steve’s column provides a useful summary of his 93-page Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2008, the just-published thirteenth edition of his annual review.

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