60-Second Earth

The Earth in 2010

What were the biggest environmental stories in 2010? David Biello reports

Ah, 2010, how the environment shall miss you. This year, the Gulf of Mexico hosted an unprecedented months-long oil spill. At the same time, fracking for natural gas polluted water wells from Pennsylvania to Texas—but delivered a fuel that produces half as much CO2 as burning coal. 

Speaking of which, the U.S. did not pass legislation to combat climate change, though President Obama did institute new auto efficiency standards. And California implemented its own cap-and-trade plan. Climate change didn't wait though, with 2010 the hottest year on record, according to NASA, and chock full of extreme weather like floods from Pakistan to the U.S. and record heat in Russia. Yet, smears against climate scientists continued.

Google backed a plan for offshore wind through construction of a spine of transmission wires off the East Coast, though the U.S. still lacks its first such offshore wind farm.

Internationally, the world's governments agreed to plan to preserve biodiversity, if only for our own health, although the "sixth extinction" continued to gather pace. Good news: the chopping down of the Amazon rainforest continued to slow.

As the year limped to a close, the electric car got its revenge, as the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF hit dealerships. And, in the same year as the 40th anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency and Earth Day, the planet also got a whole new style of life—man-made genetic code for microbes.

What will 2011 bring?

—David Biello

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