News

2010 Proved Tough Year for Environment

Massive flooding, widespread forest fires, glacier melt, coral death

Electricity pylons in Beijing. China has invested $30 billion to boost energy conservation and curb greenhouse gas emissions in the past five years.
Electricity pylons in Beijing. China has invested $30 billion to boost energy conservation and curb greenhouse gas emissions in the past five years.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

The world in 2010 was hot. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2010 was on track to be the hottest year since record keeping began in 1880.  Many of the year's notable events were harbingers of global climate change including extreme weather, massive forest fires, widespread flooding, glacier melt and coral bleaching.

People amidst debris of burnt houses in the settlement of Tsibari in Russia's republic of Dagestan in North Caucasus where 80 percent of the village buildings were destroyed by fire.
People amidst debris of burnt houses in the settlement of Tsibari in Russia's republic of Dagestan in North Caucasus where 80 percent of the village buildings were destroyed by fire.

A warming planet was also among the top environmental stories of 2010 for Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. The independent environmental analyst says the combined impact of extreme weather, drought and forest fires in Russia caused a 40-percent drop in the country's grain harvests. "This was a huge disaster, a country that was one of the world's leading wheat exporters last year is this year going to be a net importer of grain, has banned (wheat) exports."

Displaced flood victims in Pakistan carry donated items by passing vehicles ahead of the winter weather.
Displaced flood victims in Pakistan carry donated items by passing vehicles ahead of the winter weather.

1/5 of Pakistan Flooded

Brown also saw some ominous signs on the climate horizon. He says the floods in Pakistan last July were preceded by the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia, with the mercury climbing to a withering 53 degrees Celsius along the Indus Basin in Southern Pakistan.

"What that meant among other things is that the glaciers in the Himalayas, from which the Indus River tributaries flow, and the Indus River is the lifeline of Pakistan, even before the rains came, the flow of those tributaries was starting to swell from the accelerating ice melting."

China Surpasses the U.S. as Largest Energy Consumer

This was also the year in which China, which had surpassed the United States as the largest greenhouse gas emitter in 2009, surged past the U.S. as the world's largest energy consumer. China also set new energy efficiency targets for local governments, imposed rigorous energy standards on companies and moved ahead with construction of the world's largest high-speed rail network, involving new subways lines and rapid transit systems in dozens of Chinese cities.



U.S. Fails to Pass Climate Law, But Global Climate Negotiations Make a Comeback

World Resources Institute President Jonathan Lash says that, while the United States Congress failed to pass a climate law in 2010, numerous states acted alone or in groups to promote a clean energy agenda. They were joined by large sections of the private sector.

"Leading companies strongly support action and are continuing to invest in new products, new services that they believe necessary in a carbon constrained world and are continuing to make voluntary reductions in their own emissions," says Lash.

He was encouraged by the outcome of the United Nations environment summit held in Cancun, Mexico in late November and early December.  Representatives from 192 countries continued work on a global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change when that accord expires in 2012. Nations in Cancun formalized commitments to reduce emissions and protect forests. They pledged by 2020 to set aside $100 billion to help poor nations adapt to climate change and a means to transfer green technology. "It was certainly a start a real start on global collective action, and global collective actions is very rare and difficult to achieve." 

The face of a young Spanish girl was one of more than a dozen public art installations across the planet photographed by satellite and aimed at raising awareness about climate change.
The face of a young Spanish girl was one of more than a dozen public art installations across the planet photographed by satellite and aimed at raising awareness about climate change.

Kenneth Green, a resident scholar and policy analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, advocates policies and institutions that can build economies to help nations - especially the poorer ones - become resilient in the face of climate change.  He doesn't see that happening within a United Nations framework with set emission reduction targets and time tables.

"Those hard targets are simply not materializing," he notes. "I think that there is a good reason for that which is the whole United Nations process is based on the assumption that that the developed countries are just going to suddenly flood money into the developing world, while giving up the technologies that it supposedly going to depend upon for economic growth in coming centuries."

Oil Spill Cripples America's Most Productive Fishery

Another story that captured headlines in 2010 was the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 men, and before it was capped in mid-July, the leaking well released nearly five million barrels of oil into the nation's most productive fishery. Unlike a tanker spill or a broken pipeline, this was an on-going crisis.   As the year drew to a close, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft reported that 9,000 workers were still engaged in clean-up operations with a special emphasis on restoring marshlands and beaches.

"Some of our more persistent oil is in that sand column on both recreational beaches and also on national park shorelines," he said. "In some cases it is either removed manually or we are using heavy equipment."

Extinctions & Protections

Among other environmental milestones in 2010, the blue fin tuna, a heavily-fished species on the brink of extinction, failed to gain international protection. On the other hand, Norway made a $1 billion donation to preserve forests in Indonesia, and in the waning days of 2010, the Chinese Year of the Tiger, global leaders met in St. Petersburg, Russia, agreed on a tiger recovery plan and promised money to fund it.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs