Slide show: From high-speed rail to the grim figures on global warming, we look at the year's highs and lows
As far as the environment is concerned, the past year will bear two mantles above all: the Year of Obama and the Year of Copenhagen. Greens cheered as the Obama administration threw U.S. environmental policy into a near-180: A vigorous EPA halted plans for dirty coal mines, administrators and legislators moved to regulate greenhouse gases, Obama set a tough fuel economy standard to 35.5 mpg by 2016, and clean energy got its biggest-ever funding boost from the stimulus bill. The specter of Bush’s environmental policy — if you could venture to call it that — was chased from the rafters.
And then, of course, there was Copenhagen, which loomed throughout the year as a hope that nations around the world could negotiate a deal to head off the incoming environmental crisis posed by climate change. We all know how that worked out.
Though it occurred through various lenses, the past year was essentially a year spent coping with global climate change. As you’ll see from these, the best and worst environmental developments, it may either come to be seen as the year the world took on climate change and failed, or the year we got the ball rolling.
Brian Merchant covers climate and politics for TreeHugger.com, writes a column about Getting Samy Out of Burma for GOOD, and has contributed to Paste, Motherboard.tv and many others. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Brian Merchant is a freelance writer and editor in Brooklyn, NY. His work has appeared in Slate, GOOD, and Paste, and he's a contributing editor for Treehugger.com. He's currently working on a book based on his column, Getting Samy Out of Burma. More Brian Merchant.
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Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
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