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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs