1999 Earth Day Information Center


Earth Day 1999 Fact Sheet
Myths and Facts About the Environment


Myth: Urban sprawl, or suburbanization, is rapidly reducing the amount of open space, rural areas and farmland at such an alarming pace that strict growth controls are needed to preserve scenic open spaces and protect the nation's food supply.

Fact: Only 4.8% of the land area of the United States is developed. In more than three-quarters of the states, over 90% of the land is used for rural purposes such as forestry, pasture, wildlife preservation and parks. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, each year only .0006% - six ten thousandths of one percent - of land in the continental United States is developed. Between 1949 and 1992, the amount of land set aside for rural parks and wildlife areas grew from 59.2 million acres to 86.9 million acres while land in urban use grew from 39.7 million acres to 57.9 million acres. On a national level, then, the United States protected one-third more land than it developed. Farmland loss to development has significantly moderated from a 6.2% loss rate per decade in the 1960s to 2.7% now. Ohio State University economist Luther Tweeten estimates that 74% of farmland lost between 1949 and 1992 was due to changes in the agricultural industry and not development. Furthermore, farmland loss does not affect productivity. Since 1970, agricultural production has increased by 48%. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service concluded in a 1997 report that "losing farmland to urban uses does not threaten total cropland or the level of agricultural production which should be sufficient to meet food and fiber demand into the next century." Source: Samuel Staley, "The Sprawling of America," Reason Public Policy Institute, January 1999.


Myth: An increase of 1.5°F in global temperature since 1850 is proof that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are dangerously heating up the planet.

Fact: This ignores the fact that the Earth's temperature naturally rises and falls over the course of several centuries. Since the last ice age ended nearly 11,000 years ago, there have been seven major warming and cooling trends. Of the six trends preceding the current period of warming three produced temperatures warmer than today while three produced temperatures colder than today. The pattern of the most recent warming disproves an alleged human contribution. One degree of the warming occurred between 1850 and 1940 when human carbon dioxide emissions were negligible. Between 1940 and 1979, the temperature increased only .5°F when rapidly rising amounts of carbon dioxide emissions should have been causing warming to accelerate. NASA's TIROs series of satellites indicate that there has even been a slight cooling trend of .02°F since 1979. These results have been corroborated by weather balloons. Source: "Talking Points on the Economy - Environment Series," The National Center For Public Policy Research.


Myth: Global warming is responsible for 1998 being the hottest year on record.

Fact: This year's hot weather in North America didn't even set records. North America's record high was reached on July 10, 1913 when Death Valley hit 134°F. None of the other seven continents broke records either. Africa hit its record high in 1922, Asia in 1942, Australia in 1889, Europe in 1881, South America in 1905, Oceania in 1912 and Antarctica in 1974. Source: David Ridenour, "Global Warming Not Responsible for 1998's Unusual Weather," National Policy Analysis No. 228, January 1999.


Myth: Loss of the Earth's protective ozone layer will result in an increase in cancer deaths.

Fact: Malignant melanoma, a deadly form of cancer, is linked to UV-A radiation, which is not blocked by the ozone layer. UV-B rays are blocked by ozone, but have no impact on the incidence of melanoma. Source: "Talking Points on the Economy - Environment Series," The National Center For Public Policy Research.


Myth: All old-growth forests in America will be wiped out within 20 years.

Fact: As of 1993, there were 13.2 million acres of old-growth forest left in America - old-growth defined as forests containing trees over 200 years old. Eight million of these acres were totally protected in national parks and wilderness areas, and can never be harvested. Furthermore, the harvesting rate for the remaining 5.2 million acres of old-growth forest is approximately only 1% per year. Source: "Talking Points on the Economy - Environment Series," The National Center For Public Policy Research.


Myth: The United States is running out of space for landfills.

Fact: All garbage produced in the United States for the next 500 years would fit in a single landfill measuring 20 miles to a side. Source: Joseph Bast, "Eco-Sanity: A Common-Sense Guide to Environmentalism," The Heartland Institute and Madison Books, 1996.


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