After a decade of relatively few environmental initiatives, experts say they hope more changes are on the horizon.
"There was just a change with the (Bush) administration in philosophy," said Holly Myers, lecturer for the Center for Environmental Programs at Bowling Green State University. "It took the environmental issues off the national stage."
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The environment found itself hijacked by political interests from debate over drilling in Alaska, the Kyoto Protocol and a former vice president once again finding himself in the spotlight, this time over his environmental warnings.
Global climate change
Climate change became the national debate of the decade with discussion over whether the increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that trap solar energy in the atmosphere are manmade problems or an inevitable, natural phenomenon.
In 2005, upon the release of a book and documentary called “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore found himself sounding an environmental alarm. The polar ice caps are shrinking at a startling rate, according to the documentary, and some scientists say the ice will disappear in the summer months sometime in the next decade.
This decade saw extreme weather and areas struck by surprise with unlikely conditions, such as snow for the first time.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, with a 27-foot storm surge, left unprecidented deaths and damages along the nation’s gulf coast.
Waters breached the levees in New Orleans. Within moments, 80 percent of the city was underwater. More than 1,800 people died, with half as many missing. Hundreds of thousands were trapped, isolated in the flood waters. Soon they were scattered to shelters across the United States.
The financial and environmental cost continue to pile up as the city slowly rebuilds.
Three weeks later, more flooding poured in with Hurricane Rita’s arrival.
Just about nine months earlier, a tsunami in the Indian Ocean caused some of the most devastating losses ever recorded.
An estimated 300,000 people died when the giant tidal wave swept over Sumatra on Dec. 26, 2004.
Great Lakes Compact
The Great Lakes Compact became a legal agreement designed to protect the area’s fresh water supply by preventing any large scale diversion of fresh water from the lakes. It was signed by the governors of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsyvania and New York and became law in October 2008.
Scientists discovered that every area of the planet’s waters is contaminated with plastic, pharmacuticals and other toxins, including heavy metals.
“Every child born (since 1962) has pesticide in their system,” Myers said.
Myers said bottled water in the United States can come from any source, including a city water supply, and is regulated by lower standards than tap water.
Though signed in 1997, the international agreement was adopted earlier this decade and set binding targets for 37 industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These amount to an average of five percent against 1990 levels over the five-year period from 2008-12, according to the Associated Press.
Climate change in Copenhagen
A historic United Nations climate conference ended earlier this month with a nonbinding accord that outlined vague steps for developing countries to shield against global warming.
The agreement brokered by President Barack Obama with China and others set up the first significant program of climate aid to poorer nations, according to the Associated Press. Although it urged deeper cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming, it did not require them.
The “green revolution” seemed to make everyone an environmentalist.
This decade saw gas prices top $4 per gallon for the first time. The skyrocketing energy prices brought discussions of alternative energy to the forefront.
Drivers ditched their gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and latched onto hybrids or smaller cars.
State officials pushed for wind and solar energy. Daryl Stockburger, former director of Utilites for Bowling Green, worked with the Department of Development and Green Energy Ohio to bring the first turbines to Ohio.
Area schools are starting green technology programs to help educate young people to build the energy-harnessing tools of the future.