The 12 most-read 2011 articles in Environment

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The environment section covers issues which raise debate such as those concerning climate change, green living and nature. Here we take a look at the most popular articles of the year followed by an insight from our environment editor as he chooses his favourite story.


The world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters, China, the US and India, agreed to a legally bound treaty to cut their emissions for the first time at the UN climate conference in South Africa earlier this month. The deal is surely the most significant environment related story of the year.

The 12 most read are those environment articles published in 2011 that have been visited by the greatest number of separate users to date.

Interesting fact: The top three most read articles this year in this section were published on a Tuesday.

The list (click the headlines to read articles in full)

1. Global warning: climate sceptics are winning the battle

By Michael McCarthy, Tuesday 11th October

Father of the green movement,  James Hansen of Nasa, says scientists lack PR skills to make public listen. Dr Hansen believes "a gap has opened between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community, and what's known by the people who need to know – and that's the public."

2. Oceans on brink of catastrophe

By Michael McCarthy, Tuesday 21st June

A panel of 27 scientists concluded that marine life is facing mass extinction 'within one human generation' with the state of the seas degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted according to their report.

3. YouTube sensation fuelling trade in an endangered species

By Adam Sherwin, Tuesday 22nd March

The slow loris, a species of primate native to South-east Asia, stardom on YouTube has been stoking demand among children to turn the wild animal into must-have living toys. But the primate is no pet.

4. Japan uses tsunami victims' cash to shield whalers from activists

By David McNeill, Friday 9th December

Report by David McNeill from Tokyo on how the £19 million from fund set up to rebuild coast stricken by the devastating tsunami, has been diverted to provide security for japan's whaling fleet.

5. Letters to a heretic: An email conversation with climate change sceptic Professor Freeman Dyson

By Steve Connor, Friday 25th February

Steve Connor, our science editor, asks world-renowned physicist Professor Freeman Dyson why he's one of the few true intellectuals to be so dismissive of the global-warming consensus.

6. Giant ozone hole found above Arctic

By Paul Cahalan, Monday 3rd October

Not again! Scientists have discovered a hole five times the size of Germany in the ozone layer above the Arctic which is similar to the hole over the Antarctic.

7. Why build-up of fresh water in Arctic could spell trouble for Britain

By Steve Connor, Wednesday 6th April

The consequences if this discovery could affect the warm Gulf Stream that keeps Britain mild in winter and cool in summer. Studies have shown that a surface layer of fresher water in the Arctic Ocean has increased in volume by about 20 per cent over the past two decades.

8. The plastic found in a single turtle's stomach

By Adam Sherwin, Thursday 24th March

This story revealed the threat to wildlife from debris floating in our seas. Environmentalists examined the stomach of a juvenile turtle found off the coast of Argentina discovered that, over the course of a month, the animal's faeces had contained 74 foreign objects.

9. Exclusive: BP to risk worst ever oil spill in Shetlands drilling

By Michael McCarthy, Wednesday 12th October

Our environment editor landed this scoop from internal company documents. The worst-case scenario for a spill from BP's new well would involve a leak of 75,000 barrels a day for 140 days – a total of 10.5 million barrels of oil, comfortably the world's biggest pollution disaster.

10. Victory in the campaign to ban circus animals

By Martin Hickman, Friday 24th June

The Government conceded defeat as MPs of all parties unanimously backed a ban after The Independent campaigned to ban wild animals in circuses. A petition set up by The Independent was backed by over 30, 000 signatures.

11. Ex-climate sceptic now backs global warming

By Steve Connor, Saturday 22nd October

A change of mind by a climate sceptic proved popular. Professor Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, said that there is little doubt in his mind the phenomenon of rising land temperatures is real.

12. The secret life of animals

By Guy Adams, Thursday 3rd March

The Smithsonian released a vast database of more than 202,000 "candid camera" shots, from seven major projects around the world. A moment from these animals' hidden existence was captured for posterity.

Editor's choice

Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor, The Independent

Although I spent much of the year writing about major issues like global warming and nuclear power, the 2011 story which most captured my imagination (and I like to think, perhaps the imaginations of a few other people too) concerned cuckoos, those birds with a famous call and notorious behaviour (laying eggs in other birds’ nests). Cuckoos are migrants, coming to us from Africa every spring to breed, before heading back; what has never been known is where in Africa they go. 

Five cuckoos, caught in Norfolk by the British Trust for Ornithology last summer and fitted with ultra-light satellite transmitters, are now showing us exactly where they wander (currently, they’re all in the Congo rainforest). The revelation of their journeys have been wonderfully exciting for anyone interested in birds, new discoveries appearing before our very eyes.  See


The 12 most-read 2011 articles in NEWS | SPORT | OPINION | ENVIRONMENT | LIFE & STYLE | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | TRAVEL | 50 BEST and The 12 most-viewed 2011 VIDEO articles


Plus: The 12 treats of Christmas: 2011's BEST TECH RELEASES


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