Hey everybody—it’s Earth Day! I know, you can hardly contain your excitement. I’m planning to observe it as I do most sunny days on the coast: by lighting up my carbon-intensive barbecue and roasting some green weenies.
I’m behind on a lot of things these days, one of them being the update of my Almanac of Environmental Trends. I have managed to complete an update of the air quality section, and here’s a bit of news I’ll bet you see nowhere in the mainstream media today: conventional air pollution, according to the most recent EPA data (through 2010; through 2012 in California) is falling like a rock. Between 2008 and 2010, emissions of the six main air pollutants fell by one-third. See Figure 1b and the two tables below. (Click to enlarge.)
Some of this was the result of the recession, but an equally large part of it is explained by two other factors: the rapid switch from coal to natural gas in the electricity sector (the result of the fracking-led gas boom that environmentalists oppose), and the ongoing turnover of the auto and truck fleet from older, higher-polluting models to new, state-of-the-art vehicles whose emissions are astonishingly low. Investors Business Daily has more on this subject today, drawn chiefly from my assembled database.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media are starting to get a few things. The Washington Post’s editorial page yesterday featured a house editorial entitled, “Europe is becoming a green energy basket case.” This is pretty delicious:
FOR YEARS, European leaders have flaunted their unwavering commitment to fighting climate change — and chastised the United States for lagging behind. But last week brought yet more confirmation that the continent has become a green-energy basket case. Instead of a model for the world to emulate, Europe has become a model of what not to do.
Of course, the editorial ended badly, saying the United States should “put a price on carbon”—but isn’t this what the Europeans tried to do? I suspect this editorial was written by committee, or more likely that this dolorous conclusion was inserted by a higher up late in the editorial process.
Then today the Puffington Host—I think they qualify as “mainstream media,” at least in disposition—reports that “Poll Finds Americans Less Concerned About the Environment Now Than When Earth Day Began.” Gee—I wonder why that could possibly be?
Over at American.com, Ben Zycher gives a nice sampling of all of the busted flushes of environmental doomsaying over the years, such as the Associated Press reporting in May 1989 that “Using computer models, researchers concluded that global warming would raise average annual temperatures nationwide two degrees by 2010.” (Of course, it’s the AP, so we know right away it’s going to be wrong.) And at Freedomwork.com, Jon Gabriel offers his list of The 13 Worst Predictions from Earth Day 1970. My favorite, from Harvard biologist George Wald: “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
And today is a good occasion to take note of a good book that I have neglected to mention here previously: Elizabeth Nickson’s Eco-Fascists: How Radical Conservationists Are Destroying Our Natural Heritage. Normally I don’t go in for titles and themes that include “fascism” in the title for some of the ordinary reasons, but Nickson, a former European bureau chief for Life magazine and reporter for Time (which sound suspiciously like mainstream media cred, no?), makes a solid case that even if most people with environmental sympathies aren’t fascistic authoritarians, the activists on the margin who drive policies and regulation are. Moreover, Nickson documents how most of these efforts actually have contrary effects than the stated intentions, which suggests that the real agenda is something different than the stated agenda. They may not take their environmentalism as far as the Earth Day co-founder who composted his girlfriend after he killed her (now that’s full lifecycle analysis and genuine recycling!), but the strain of green-uber-alles is definitely present.. Nickson’s well-written book is worth a read.
Finally, just because (hat tip: XKCD):