Milestones in a decade

Gulf of Mexico oil spill

An explosion on April 20, 2010, aboard the Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig working on a well for the oil company BP one mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, led to the largest accidental oil spill in history. On Nov. 24, an emergency programme had ended and the settlement phase began. After a series of failed efforts to plug a gushing leak, BP said in July that it had capped what it had named the Macondo well, marking the first time in 86 days that oil was not gushing into the gulf.

Cancun meet

Unlike 2009’s UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, when Bolivia and a handful of others brought decisionmaking to a standstill, this year the president of the talks said “consensus does not mean unanimity” and gaveled through the agreements over Bolivia’s objection. The result, said ministers and analysts alike, was a set of agreements that restored widespread confidence in the UN climate talks.

Copenhagen meet

Representatives of 192 nations gathered in Copenhagen to seek a consensus on an international strategy for fighting global warming, in a series of meetings between Dec. 7 and Dec. 18, 2009. Leaders concluded a climate change deal the Obama administration called “meaningful” but which fell short of even the modest expectations for the summit.

Climategate

The unauthorised release of more than 1,000 e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK, in November 2009 had a profound effect on the public's perception of climate science.

A Himalayan blunder

First they said the Himalayan glaciers were melting, and would disappear as early as 2035. Then, the IPCC issued a clarification regarding the inclusion of a non-peer reviewed speculative statement about the rate of Himalayan glacier melting, and the assertion that some could be entirely gone by 2035, in the assessment report from 2007.

Melting of Arctic ice

The Arctic ice cap reached an all-time low in the summer of 2007. Some climate scientists now predict the region will be ice free during the summer within the next decade. Studies suggest an ice-free Arctic could result in a stormier North Pole region, but could also affect weather patterns throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Whither coral reefs?

This year’s extreme heat is putting the world’s coral reefs under such severe stress that scientists fear widespread die-offs, endangering not only the richest ecosystems in the ocean but also fisheries that feed millions of people. From Thailand to Texas, corals are reacting to the heat stress by bleaching, or shedding their colour and going into survival mode.

Warmest year yet

An analysis of average global temperatures through November by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies shows 2010 on pace to become the warmest year since the collection of temperature data began 130 years ago.

Gore’s documentary

Al Gore’s 2006 documentary The Inconvenient Truth—which was widely credited as a tipping point for environment awareness. He emerged from his loss in the muddled 2000 presidential election to devote himself to his passion as an environmental crusader, was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Green fuel alternatives

From solar energy to wind energy, alternative sources of energy are being touted as the next big thing this decade. Amidst talk of carbon emissions, individuals and companies the world over are seeking greener alternatives.

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