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60-Second Earth

We Look Back Earthily at 2012

Superstorms, electric cars, alternative fuels and Arctic sea ice all made environmental news in 2012. David Biello reports

Twenty-twelve was quite a year of change for the planet, if not quite the apocalypse imagined by New Age shamans or Hollywood producers.

Arctic summer sea ice shattered its previous record low, and set off a storm of speculation about what an ice-free Arctic might mean for future weird weather. In a bid to counter exactly this kind of thing, a team of would-be geoengineers dumped iron in the ocean off British Columbia to prompt a plankton bloom, in hopes of boosting local salmon populations and sucking CO2 out of the air.

In a perhaps less quixotic bid, scientists continued to work on breakthroughs that could alter our dependence on fossil fuels, from using microbes to turn seaweed into biofuels to better batteries for electric cars.

Speaking of which, an electric car, the Tesla Model S, became simply the best car of the year, according to Motor Trend. Meanwhile, the human population kept growing, urbanizing and struggling to either feed itself or not overfeed itself.

Finally, there was Hurricane Sandy, which closed our offices for a week and appeared to have blown climate change back onto the American political landscape, however briefly. Judging by what happened at the United Nations climate conference in Doha, however, 2012 was not the year when the United States or the world finally did something about restraining the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, not even CO2 capture and storage. And it doesn’t look like 2013 will be either.

That said, natural gas began to supplant coal in the U.S., driving down greenhouse gas emissions. And that's a good thing. Happy New Year!

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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