Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The air is cleaner than you think

Excerpts from the Pacific Research Institute Report:

What has changed in the decade since the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) launched the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

In the 1990s, most Americans believed environmental quality was declining. Today, 71 percent of us are “happy” with the quality of the environment where we live, according to a Harris poll. And another recent Harris poll, commissioned by PRI, reports that the majority of those surve yed are optimistic about environmental progress in the next decade.

PRI’s survey also re vealed that 74 percent of respondents think cars are less polluting now than they were 25 years ago. In this case, opinion is certainly an accurate reflection of reality. Emission reductions helped the entire nation achieve clean air standards for four of the six “criteria” pollutants in 2004.

Cities with the dirtiest air we re the ones showing the greatest improvements. Four of the top five most-improved are in southern California. And while ozone still exceeds the standards, it was at its lowest level ever last year.

The good news is that air pollution is predicted to continue declining. The EPA’s own emissions models project that emissions from the auto fleet will decline by more than 80 percent over the next 25 years.

Perhaps such dramatic improvements have made us all look at things a bit differently. While we still care about the environment, maybe we are “just not that into” the environmentalists and their scare stories anymore. Global warming now scores lowest among the public’s environmental hot buttons. And there is widespread understanding, and acceptance, of the view that economic growth and freedom are essential prerequisites for environmental health.

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