My Turn: Greens are really bad for the environment and the economy

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2002

The question must be asked: "Are environmentalists good for the environment?"

And the answer may be more difficult to answer than you think. Many people would reflexively say "Oh sure" and go back to hugging their bunnies.

But I've been wrestling with the rascals for 35 years and would quickly say "Not only no, but (fill in your favorite epithet here) no."

The greens largely have dominated the national agenda for more than a generation and, in doing so, have been a monkey wrench in the gears of the economy on the national, state and local levels.

Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and now an environmental consultant to government and industry, noted in a recent Los Angeles Times article that the green industry often works against its own stated objectives.

He cited one example in which the eco-zealots demanded that wood and paper products be certified as originating from sustained, managed forests. Those in the movement created their own organization, the Forest Stewardship Council, which made the rules and handed out certificates to those who complied.

In such situations, he wrote, "Lord help those who don't fall in line, as big-box retailers and builders discovered when Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network became their judge and jury - hanging corporate reputations from the rafters with the TV cameras rolling."

Many corporations went along with the green demands and adopted restrictive buying policies on wood and paper items to demonstrate that they were loyal to the cause. The environmental movement forced industry to accept it as the only judge of sustainable forestry.

But the Forest Stewardship Council has certified less than 2 percent of the wood and paper produced in North America. And consumers have rebelled against the greens' politically correct demands - and their cost - and moved away from forest products, which are renewable whatever their source. Instead, the consumers choose items made from energy-intensive materials like steel, concrete and plastic.

"The environmental movement has unfortunately led the public into believing that when people use wood, they cause the loss of forests," Moore wrote. But the fact is, he said, "North America's forests are not disappearing. In fact, there is about the same amount of forest cover today as there was 100 years ago, even though we consume more wood per capita than any other region in the world."

The greens have fought virtually every oil and gas development project to come along, often keeping fuels off the market that would provide energy, chemicals for medicines and fertilizers that would help feed the world's hungry.

Former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal article that "the rhetoric and proposals of the green organizations that make their living and raise their money through predictions of cataclysmic catastrophe are far divorced from reality." Du Pont is now policy chairman of a Dallas-based think tank, the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Du Pont cited a Cato Institute study that showed the cries by environmental alarmists about fossil fuel pollution are based on fantasy and junk science. The Cato researchers reported that since the first Earth Day in 1970, "energy consumption has risen 41 percent, most of it from fossil fuels. But during that same period sulfur-dioxide emissions ... have dropped by 39 percent ... volatile organic compounds ... by 42 percent; carbon monoxide emissions ... have dropped by 28 percent; and large particulate-matter emissions ... by 75 percent."

Du Pont also took on their claims about global warming. He wrote that "... several things are agreed: The temperature on the surface of the earth rose in the 20th century, and man burned more fossil fuels during that time. And that's about it, for it is not at all clear that the two are linked."

Most of the warming occurred early in the last century, he said, and that was before the surge in man-made gases. Du Pont quotes a 2001 report by Canada's Fraser Institute that concluded, "There is no clear evidence of the effect of CO2 on global climate" in records for surface temperatures, in balloon-borne measuring equipment or in satellite studies over the last 20 years.

In fact, he notes, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies says studies show global warming has slowed so much that temperature increases previously predicted for 2050 won't come about until 2100.

And what about the much-vaunted population explosion, the target of much save-the-world enviro hoopla? The U.N. reports that 44 percent of the world's population now lives in countries where the birth rate is below the death rate. The people are not even replacing themselves. And within a few decades the world's population as a whole will be declining. Even at its present level the entire world population could fit into Texas, with each person enjoying 1,200 feet of space.

So are the greens good for the greenery? I repeat, "Not only no, but ..."

Tom Brennan is an editor of The Anchorage Times.

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