Political news in 2010 was dominated by the U.S. midterm elections and the ongoing economic troubles in the U.S. and Europe. But there was no shortage of big stories in environmental politics, including one that most people will remember for the rest of their lives.
10. Cancun Climate Talks
One year after the Copenhagen Accord, the underwhelming agreement reached at the much-hyped UN climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009, few people expected much in terms of significant action at the UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico in December. But the agreement reached in Cancun this year surprised a few people by coming to agreement on preserving global wetlands, codifying the carbon reduction cuts countries made throughout the year by putting those pledges into UN documentation. And for the first time, developing countries also joined industrialized countries and agreed to look at how they can cut emissions in the future. That said, the agreements on emissions cuts are still relatively modest and not binding.
9. Global Convention on Biological Diversity
October 29th, 193 member nations of the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya, Japan reached a landmark yet largely unheralded agreement on saving the world's biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan. While not perfect, by any estimation, the agreement was lauded by many in the conservation community for going farther and being more specific than previous Conventions. The Convention set out 20 specific targets including cutting the current loss in species habitat in half; placing 10% of the world's oceans under protection (up from about 1 percent currently); and protecting 17% of the world's terrestrial environments (up from 12% currently).
Leading up to the UN Climate talks last year in Copenhagen, an alleged scandal involving hacked and stolen emails from some of the world's leading climate scientists not only fueled the global warming skeptic community with out-of-context sentence fragments that "proved" climate change was merely a hoax, but thanks to a mainstream media so willing to buy the hype and fan the flames of controversy, the so-called climategate scandal was one of the biggest stories in environmental politics of 2009. As it turns out, five independent investigations have concluded that the integrity of the science is entirely sound. But the media storm surrounding the debunking never materialized.
7. The Hottest Year on Record
Although this shouldn't really be a political issue, the political implications—or lack thereof—of 2010 being one of, if not the, warmest year on record, cannot be overlooked, especially considering many powerful places in the western world (e.g. the East Coast of the U.S. and London, England) are experiencing colder or snowier than normal winters. But beginning with unusually warm weather threatening events at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver last winter; followed by record heat, drought and fires across Russia, and; catastrophic rains and flooding in South Asia and South America, on a global scale, 2010 continued the trend of rising temperatures and increasing frequency and severity of major weather events. According to NASA's Goddard Institute, the combined land-ocean temperature readings indicate that 2010 is the warmest climate year on record.
6. Cap and Trade Dies in Congress
If 2009 was the year that the U.S. House of Representatives passed cap-and-trade legislation, 2010 was the year the U.S. Senate couldn't even bring a climate bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Despite occasional rumblings throughout the year that support was waxing for Senate action on climate, either in the form of a cap and trade or a cap and dividend, those rumblings were usually followed by reports of waning support. (Continued...)