Skip to comments.Earth Day Report: Is Environment Bleak or Healthy?
Posted on 04/22/2002 6:05:13 AM PDT by Tumbleweed_Connection
Contrasting views on the health of the earth are being debated on the 32nd annual Earth Day, with a defector from the environmental movement saying the earth is healthier than ever and an environmentalist saying the earth is headed for a "pretty bleak future," if we don't change our habits.
Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish professor and author of the book Skeptical Environmentalist, takes a critical look at the many claims made over the years by environmentalists.
Lomborg used to be in his own words "a Greenpeace kinda leftie" who believed the earth was heading for an environmental catastrophe. His book analyzed a wide range of environmental claims and explains his conversion from an environmental pessimist to an optimist.
"Things are actually getting better and better on pretty much all accounts. This does not mean there are no problems, but things are getting better," Lomborg said.
On every environmental concern, from hunger to overpopulation to refuse disposal to global warming to energy supplies, Lomborg dismisses the environmental lobby's claims that the earth is in dire straits. He said Earth Day is "a good display of care, but we have to direct it in the right direction."
Lomborg points to improving air quality worldwide as an example of an improving earth.
"It has gotten better over the last 50-100 years. It doesn't mean we can't actually work to make it better, but it's important to know that things are actually improving," he told CNSNews.com.
Earth Headed for 'Bleak Future'?
"If we don't change our ways, there is no doubt we are headed for a pretty bleak future," stated Gary Gardner, Director of Research for the environmental group, Worldwatch Institute.
Gardner believes, unlike Lomborg, that "the earth is in pretty poor condition and it continues to get worse." and states, "most [environmental] indicators are worsening."
"We will have used up more than half of the world's total supply of oil within the next 10 or 20 years," Gardner said.
Lomborg counters that we should not be concerned about running out of oil, noting that since the 1920s, the world has been told how there is only a "10 year supply of oil" left.
He quoted an old professor who said, "We have been running out of oil ever since I was a kid."
According to Lomborg, "We have been better at utilizing [oil] and more efficient in finding it" and speculates that we "may have 100 years" supply of oil available.
"It's like going home and looking into your fridge and saying, 'whoa,' you only have food for three days, you are going to die in four!" he joked.
Lomborg said the former head of OPEC once observed, "The oil-age is not going to come to an end because of a lack of oil, just like the stone-age did not come to an end because of a lack of stone."
Both Gardner and Lomborg agree that fossil fuels will eventually be replaced with renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. "The best news is that solar and wind power, while still very tiny, are growing many times more rapidly [than fossil fuels], noted Gardner.
Gardner maintains that species extinction is a "grave problem" because we are losing "billions of years of evolution that is being undone in just the blink of an eye in geological time."
Lomborg disagrees. "We have been told that we were going to lose 25 or 50 percent of all species within our lifetime. The right number is probably .7 percent over the next 50 years. That means it is not a catastrophe," he said.
Global Warming Overhyped?
Gardner sees climate change as one of the biggest environmental problems facing the planet. "It is clear the earth is getting warmer and the connection to human activity is getting stronger and stronger," he stated.
While Lomborg believes some global warming may occur, it "is unlikely to go on for a very long time," he said.
Efforts like the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to limit greenhouse gasses thought to contribute to global warming, "will do almost no good" and "cost anywhere from $150 to $350 billion a year," Lomborg said. He also believes the money would be better spent on sanitation in the developing world.
He calculated that if we spent just one year's cost of Kyoto on the developing world, "We could give clean drinking water and sanitation to every single human being on earth."
More Trees Than 100 Years Ago
Lomborg said the green movement's predictions of global deforestation have been exaggerated. "The U.S. has reforested over the last half century and has as much forest now as it had in 1900," he explained. Gardner conceded that the U.S. has more forest now than 100 years ago, but says much of the new forest cover is from "plantation forests, which have much simpler eco-systems than natural forests."
On the issue of air pollution, both agree that the U.S. has cleaned up its air quality since the first Earth Day 32 years ago.
"The air has gotten cleaner in the U.S., but it is still far from where we should be," stated Gardner. Lomborg also noted that the air quality in London is cleaner today than it was in the 16th century.
Gardner calls on governments of the earth to promote "equitable and sustainable" policies that are earth friendly. But Lomborg criticizes the green movement for failing to consider economic conditions when discussing the solutions to environmental problems.
"It's only when you get sufficiently rich that you don't have to worry about where your next meal is coming from that you can start to worry about the environment," Lomborg said. "That is why it is so important to make sure they actually get out of poverty and get well fed," he added.
The wealthier a nation, the healthier the environment, Lomborg said. "When you are rich, you don't go out and cut down rainforest in order to make a poor living as a farmer. You become a web designer.
"All indicators show we seem to solve more problems than we create and that is why things have been going ever better, especially in the developing world," Lomborg said.
Lomborg is upbeat about the future of the planet on this Earth Day 2002. "The resources to support our future are not being undermined. Actually, if anything, they are being strengthened. We are actually leaving our kids a better world, not a worse world when we talk about pollution," Lomborg said.
Gardner is not as optimistic about the condition of the earth's environment, but he does believe "we can change our ways and we can turn things around."
"Everyone who works at Worldwatch is an optimist about the future," he added.
Fire up those chain saws and let the sawdust fly !!
sorry for the rant
I could not find his name listed anywhere at the link you posted.
I wonder what his title is.