First, the science: the most thorough state-of-the-Earth report is on Earthbeat Radio, where Andrew Revkin and Joe Romm sum up trends in temperatures (more on RealClimate), receding sea ice (one of Nature’s top science stories this year), and other climate impacts.
“Change” was the word of the year, says Chris Tobias at Celsias, and we’re not just talking climate. It was the inescapable mantra behind Barack Obama’s victory in the US election – 2008’s number-one ‘green story’, according to both Time and Grist. (Link-clickers will note that Time’s list is almost absolutely America-centric. For the UK equivalent, check the Telegraph, which posits that “The whole year has been building up to the Climate Change Bill”.)
“Change, but at what price?” is the title on the Guardian’s rather nice enviro-news lookback (complete with slideshow) – which recalls that of the year’s many shake-ups, the presidential election was merely the most predictable. It joined a food crisis blamed in part on booming biofuels; an oil price surge that boosted the fortunes of renewable energy, then receded and dashed them (also highlighted in the New Scientist roundup); and a financial meltdown and recession that threatens to draw attention and money away from climate change mitigation in 2009.
All the turmoil makes for interesting times in the clean-tech industry, as CNET summarizes here and here. Wired says the sector’s most exciting development last year was – wait for it – green cement. In a similar vein, New Scientist’s list of green fuel breakthroughs leads with the virtues of simply switching to from gasoline to diesel. Is ‘so-unsexy-it’s-sexy’ the new mood for cash-strapped 2009?
Speaking of The Man Who Would Be Change: for climate policy fanatics looking ahead to 2009, one of the most exciting things that’s been rounded up this month is Obama’s cabinet. A group of impressive scientist nominees – including energy researcher Stephen Chu as energy secretary, and John Holdren, a physicist and climate change expert, as White House science adviser – have been called a “green dream team” and “the climate Superfriends”. In Holdren’s case, a backlash and counter-backlash is already kicking up on several blogs. For further help pumping up science’s place in White House politics, Obama can consult this list of New Year’s resolutions from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In the literature and arts department, we have the best climate books of 2008 from RealClimate, contest-winning climate cartoons as the Independent’s number-four green story, and Grist’s pick of Chrissie Hynde’s “Break Up the Concrete” for the enviro song of the year – which I’m including as a shout-out to Hynde, whose “2000 Miles” has saved my soul during many a holiday-season grocery run.
Meanwhile at the BBC, environmental reporter Richard Black says a relative dearth of climate stories in 2008 meant more headlines left over for other problems. But just wait til Copenhagen…