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SPECIAL EARTH DAY EDITION
In Honor of Earth Day: Telling the Truth About the Earth
In Honor of Earth Day: Telling the Truth About the Earth
A common environmentalist theme is: Respect the Earth.
On the occaision of the 30th anniversary of Earth Day, a decent respect for the Earth compels us to examine some pervasive environmental myths, and, as necessary, set the record straight.
Myth: Human-induced global warming is underway and will cause major environmental disasters such as soaring temperatures, melting glaciers and a precipitous rise in sea level that will flood seaboard cities.
Fact: There is no evidence that man-made global warming is occurring. Proponents of the global warming theory have made numerous predictions about how man's actions will affect the climate, but none of these predictions have proven correct. In 1990, officials with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the principal advocate of the global warming theory, predicted that global temperatures would rise 6°F by 2100. In 1995, the IPCC adjusted its warming projection downward, forecasting that temperatures would rise less than 2°F, a noticeable increase but hardly a cause for concern. Natural temperature increases of 3 to 4° F have occurred in past centuries and have generally benefited humanity by prolonging growing seasons and promoting mild weather. Most significant is the fact that that the temperature is not rising. NASA's Tiros weather satellites, the most accurate barometers of global temperature, show that the Earth has slightly cooled since 1979, contradicting global warming doomsayers who predicted that human-induced warming should have caused the temperature to increase .6°F. Recent scientific research is also disproving claims that global warming is causing the sea level to dangerously rise. In October 1998, the British Antarctic Survey announced that it found no evidence of global warming on that continent, concluding that a rapid melting of the Antarctic ice sheets, which would result in major flooding of seaboard cities and island nations, is very unlikely.
Myth: The adoption of "smart growth" strategies that impose strict limits on development to combat the alleged problem of urban sprawl will reduce traffic congestion, improve the environment and make cities more livable.
Fact: Anti-sprawl policies exacerbate traffic congestion and reduce air quality by underfunding road construction and forcing new development into already-congested urban areas. In Portland, Oregon, which has implemented the most aggressive anti-sprawl program in the nation, regional planners are going to increase highway capacity by no more than 13% over the next 40 years even though population will rise 75%. As a result, traffic congestion is so bad in Portland that it is approaching that of the New York metropolitan area even though New York is 15 times larger. Such congestion is not only inconvenient because it increases commuters' time on the road, but it is also unhealthy for the environment. The more time people spend on the road, the more automobile emissions there will be.
Myth: Strict government controls are necessary to prevent profit-minded oil companies from unnecessarily raising the price of gasoline.
Fact: Government has inflated the price of gasoline by imposing an 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax and restricting domestic oil production by preventing the development of the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. Oil drilling on ANWR would only affect 2,000 of the refuge's 19 million acres and would not affect caribou herds and other wildlife in the area. ANWR is so oil-rich that it could replace 30 years worth of Saudi oil imported into the U.S.
Myth: Genetically-modified foods are dangerous and untested products that pose a serious risk to public safety.
Fact: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the EPA require all genetically-modified products to go through a rigorous regulatory review. It takes a company about 8-10 years to bring a genetically-modified product from the laboratory to the marketplace. Leading national and international organizations have also endorsed the safety of food biotechnology including the American Medical Association, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization.
Myth: The Clean Air Act has been an unqualified success in improving the environment.
Fact: Enforcement of the Clean Air Act has led to the pollution of freshwater supplies in many parts of the country. Pursuant to changes in the 1990 Clean Air Act, the EPA mandated the addition of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) to gasoline to cut emissions of carbon monoxide and airborne toxins. However, MTBE is possibly carcinogenic and it has leaked into many sources of fresh water. MTBE poses such a serious threat that EPA Administrator Carol Browner has ordered it to be phased out.
Myth: Requiring automakers to produce cars that meet the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard of at least 27.5 miles per gallon is a painless way to increase auto efficiency and save gasoline.
Fact: Increasing the fuel-efficiency of vehicles has cost thousands of lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 302 additional people die in auto accidents for every 100 pounds cut from the average car weight. Analysis of NHTSA and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data shows that 46,000 Americans have died in car accidents since 1975 that they would have survived had they been in larger cars.
Editor's note: for information on the sources for these facts, visit http://www.nationalcenter.org/EarthDay00Myths.html.
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