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Top Environmental Stories of the Decade: A Subjective List and Poll

Here’s a list of environmental stories which had high impact during the last decade.

This is is in no particular order admittedly subjective and seen from an American perspective.

Please tell us what we’ve missed and take a moment to vote in the poll.

  • The environmental movement goes mainstream. This was the decade in which global warming became a household word and environmentalists were no longer viewed as tree-hugging-tofu-eaters. Major corporations now have “going green” programs in place, while terms like “greenwashing” and “carbon footprint” are commonly used.
  • Prius Rising. The first commercially viable hybrid became part of the landscape, figuratively and literally.
  • Al Gore becomes the face of a movement. This was arguably the most stunning resurrection of a 20th/21st century politician’s career. After winning the popular vote in the presidential election which launched the decade, only to lose the contest in a manner which will forever be hotly debated, Gore appeared to be destined for history’s asterisk bin. Then came “An Inconvenient Truth” and a Nobel Prize.
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change establishes scientific consensus. The release of the IPCC report in 2007 determined that, yes, climate change is real and, yes, it’s caused by human activity.
  • Extreme weather. The hottest decade on record also included some of the most deadly weather events on record. It’s not possible to say whether the rising temperatures contributed to any of these, but the deadly European heatwave of 2003, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina’s obliteration of New Orleans in 2005, and the 2008 series of killer hurricanes in Haiti were a few notable reminders of the potentially fatal power of nature.
  • Climate change gets a price tag. Former World Bank vice president Sir Nicholas Stern released The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change in 2006, which estimated the effects of climate change to have, at minimum, the cost of 5% of the world’s GDP. 
  • You are what you eat. While obesity rates continue to skyrocket at alarming rates, even among children, (along with the associated health complications), organic foods have become very accessible in traditionally non-organic settings. It’s common for mainstream grocers to have their own organic labels and the price gap between organics and conventionals is rapidly closing.
  • Climate change and American politics, the Bush presidency. This was the first time personnel from the oil industry directly occupied the White House. After campaigning in 2000 to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, one of the first acts of the Bush presidency was withdrawal of the U.S. from the Kyoto Protocol. What followed was an eight year policy of environmental regression and unmasked disdain for science. Ironically, the tone-deaf response to Hurricane Katrina was one of the events that marked the very public unraveling of the Bush presidency.
  • Climate change and American politics, the Obama presidency. Obviously, there are still chapters to be written as this president has been in office for less than a year, but after stocking his administration with the best and brightest scientific and pro-environmental minds, pushing huge green-stimulus funds and job creation programs, and giving the go-ahead to the EPA to regulate CO2, there is reason for hope that was absent during the preceding eight years.
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Article by D. Snodgrass, appearing courtesy of Celsias

[photo credit: billselak]