It is Earth Day, the central religious holiday of environmental fundamentalism, and the official theme this year is “Restore Our Earth™,” purporting to focus on
natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems. In this way, the theme rejects the notion that mitigation or adaptation are the only ways to address climate change. It is up to each and every one of us to Restore Our Earth not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. We all need a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health & survival, and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.
Put aside the amusing non sequitur that mitigation and adaptation as the only ways to address (anthropogenic) climate change should be rejected “not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it.” Let us ask instead: Precisely to what conditions are we supposed to Restore Our Earth™?
A review of the data shows that an effort to Restore Our Earth™ to some recent condition would be deeply perverse. The global share of deaths from indoor and outdoor air pollution has declined from 10.1 percent in 1990 to 8.8 percent in 2017. Death rates from air pollution per 100,000 population have declined from 111.3 in 1990 to 63.8 in 2017. Over that same period, the share of deaths from indoor air pollution---the result of poor people burning dung, crop waste, charcoal, and coal for heat or cooking---has declined from 5.8 percent to 2.9 percent. The death rate per 100,000 population from indoor air pollution: from 61.1 to 21.5.
Global emissions of ozone-depleting substances from economic activities have declined from 215,000 tons in 1961 to 155,000 tons in 2014. (Natural emissions are about 165,000 tons annually.) The global share of deaths from unsafe water sources has declined from 4.5 percent in 1990 to 2.2 percent in 2017. For that same period, the global death rate per 100,000 population from unsafe sanitation has declined from 31.4 to 10.7.
These improvements have obtained even as the global population has increased from 4 billion in 1975 to 6 billion in 1999 to 7.7 billion in 2019, a profound repudiation of the left-wing environmentalist view of humans as little more than environmentally destructive mouths to feed, rather than as moral agents providing the ingenuity yielding solutions to problems. (The late Julian Simon was correct: People are the “ultimate resource.”) And these improvements have developed as well even as the global median age has increased from 21.5 in 1970 to 30.9 in 2020. In short, the world is getting wealthier, and wealthier is healthier and cleaner.
Global average life expectancy at birth has increased from 29.3 years in 1850 to 29.7 years in 1870 to 32.0 years in 1900 to 45.7 years in 1950 to 61.2 years in 1980 to 72.6 years in 2019. The global child mortality rate---the percentage of children dying before the age of 5---has declined from 9.3 percent in 1990 to 3.9 percent in 2017. The global burden of disease---both mortality and morbidity from all causes---in “disability-adjusted life years” per 100,000 population has declined from about 48,595 in 1990 to 32,797 in 2017.
Per 100,000 population, famine killed 8.4 people annually during the 1970s, 4.3 people in the 2000s, and 0.5 people during 2010 to 2016. Undernourishment afflicted 14.9 percent of the global population in 2000, and 10.7 percent in 2017. Average dietary energy supply adequacy hasincreased from about 116 percent in 1999-2001 to about 120 percent in 2015-2017.
Because “climate change” is the star around which modern leftist environmentalism orbits, it is useful to summarize the actual evidence on climate phenomena, as the Restore Our Earth™ mindset obviously assumes the climate “crisis” or “existential threat” narrative.
Not so fast. As the Little Ice Age ended no later than 1850, it is not easy to separate natural from anthropogenic effects on temperatures and other climate phenomena. The evidence shows that mankind is responsible for about half a degree of the global temperature increase of about 1.5-1.7 degrees C of global warming observed since 1850.
There is little trend in the number of “hot” days for 1895–2017; 11 of the 12 years with the highest number of such days occurred before 1960. NOAA has maintained since 2005 the U.S. Climate Reference Network, comprising 114 meticulously maintained temperature stations spaced more or less uniformly across the lower 48 states, 21 stations in Alaska, and two stations in Hawaii. The reported data show no trend over the available 2005–20 reporting period. A reconstruction of global temperatures over the past one million years, using data from ice sheet formations, shows that there is nothing unusual about the current warm period.
Global mean sea level has been increasing at about 3.3 mm per year since satellite measurements began in 1992. The tidal-gauge data before then show annual increases of about 1.9 mm per year, but that comparison does not show an acceleration because the two datasets are not comparable. It is reasonable to hypothesize that there has been such an acceleration simply because temperatures are rising, as noted above, and such increases should result in more melting ice and the thermal expansion of water. But because rising temperatures are the result of both natural and anthropogenic causes, we do not know the relative contributions of those causes to any such acceleration.
The Northern and Southern Hemisphere sea ice changes tell different stories; the arctic sea ice has been declining, while the Antarctic sea ice has been stable or growing. U.S. tornado activity shows either no trend or a downward trend since 1954. Tropical storms, hurricanes, and accumulated cyclone energy show little trend since satellite measurements began in the early 1970s. The number of U.S. wildfires shows no trend since 1985, and global acreage burned has declined over past decades. The Palmer Drought Severity index shows no trend since 1895. U.S. floodingover the past century is uncorrelated with increasing GHG concentrations. The available data do not support the ubiquitous assertions about the dire impacts of declining pH levels in the oceans. Global food availability and production have increased more or less monotonically over the past two decades on a per capita basis. The IPCC itself in the Fifth Assessment Report (page 12-78) was deeply dubious about the various severe effects---the horror stories---often asserted to be looming as impacts of anthropogenic warming.
And so we must ask again: Restore Our Earth™ to what? The obvious answer is a world with a population vastly smaller and poorer. In 1990, the late Alexander King, cofounder of the Club of Rome in 1968, argued in the context of the use of DDT to control malaria:
My own doubts came when DDT was introduced for civilian use. In Guyana, within two years it had almost eliminated malaria, but at the same time, the birth rate had doubled. … My chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it has greatly added to the population problem.
Another example came in 1971 courtesy of Michael McClosky, the former executive director of the Sierra Club, during an Ethiopian famine:
The worst thing we could do is give aid…. the best thing would be to just let nature seek its own balance and to let the people there just starve.
Tens or hundreds of millions of the world’s poor have died from malaria as a direct result of the multination ban on the use of DDT, driven by vastly exaggerated propaganda on its harmful effects on various bird species, promulgated on Earth Days past.
estimates [of a carbon tax] for a Below-1.5°C pathway range from 135–5500 USD [per] tCO2-eq in 2030, 245–13000 USD [per] tCO2-eq in 2050, 420–17500 USD [per] tCO2-eq in 2070 and 690–27000 USD [per] tCO2-eq in 2100.
The midpoint of the range for 2030 is almost $3,300 per ton in year 2020 dollars. That works out to a tax of about $28 per gallon of gasoline. (Combustion of a gallon of gasoline/ethanol 10 percent blend emits about 18.9 pounds of CO2.) Poverty, anyone? Why else does the environmental left insist upon the Green Climate Fund? It is an integral part of the Paris climate agreement, ostensibly intended to compensate the less-developed economies for the costs of reducing GHG emissions.
And so the anti-human core of Earth Day and modern left-wing environmentalism is obvious. Which brings us to the wisdom of Dogbert: “You can’t save the earth unless you’re willing to make other people sacrifice.” Truer words were never spoken.