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Written by Lindsay Crowder   
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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

2010 Major Events

This has been quite a year for the environment! As the world entered a new decade, the environment faced some significant obstacles. While moving into the holiday season and a new year, it is important to remember some of the events our planet has faced. Below is a snapshot of what have been considered the major events affecting our environment for 2010:

1. Climate Change

Catastrophic floods in Pakistan, Colombia, Venezuela, and the United States, a deadly heat wave and fires across Russia, record drought in the Amazon, and record highs worldwide only to be followed by major snow storms stranding travelers in the Eastern U.S. and Europe—this is the year when the impacts of climate change have been more apparent than ever. As the natural disasters just kept coming this year, many scientists and government officials publically recognized that such events were almost certainly related to a warming world. For more on the effects of global warming: "Global Warming Effects", and for global warming myths: "Global Warming Myths".

2. Gulf of Mexico BP Oil Spill

On April 20th, BP’s Deep Water Horizon oil rig exploded, sending almost 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for over three months. The resulting ecological and economic disaster, mostly affecting Louisiana’s working class, will probably never be known. However, thousands of dead marine animals were pulled from the oil-stained waters and evidence has been found of oil killing coral reefs and spread across the ocean floor. It will take years, if not decades, for the region to recover to its less-than-pristine pre-spill state. Many believe that this was the worst human-induced environmental disaster in American history. For more on the oil spill: "Recent Oil Spills".


3. Global Biodiversity Agreement

In October of this year, a landmark agreement aimed at saving the world's species was reached by 193 nations at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan. Conservationists largely stated that the agreement was noteworthy and a sizable step forward with 20 goals for 2020, including cutting the current loss of species habitat in half, increasing the protection of marine waters from the current 1% to 10%, and restoring 15 percent of degraded lands through conservation or restoration!

4. Logging in Madagascar

Illegal logging has been plaguing Madagascar’s rainforest parks for many years, and this year was no exception. A survey in October found more than 10,000 people living within Masoala, which is the island's most biodiverse reserve. However, it seems this year might be a turning point, as there has been an external and internal focus on stopping this destruction to such an important natural resource. After a coup, the transitional government passed a ban on logging and trading rainforest hardwood, and the exports of this wood are lower at this year at this time then they were last year at the same time! For a discussion on logging practices that are widespread but also have major environmental downsides, check out: "Clearcutting".

5. Norway Protecting Indonesia’s Forests

Norway signed a billion dollar agreement to protect forests in Indonesia, which has become the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter due to deforestation and the degradation of peatlands, which are carbon-rich ecosystems. This follows Norway’s one billion dollar commitment to protecting Brazil’s rainforests 2 years ago. Norway has is a global donator in the fight to curb global warming, with its International Climate and Forest Initiative which allocates 3 billion krone per year to forest conservation, mostly to tropical nations.

6. Brazilian Rainforests Protected

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to the lowest rate on record, putting Brazil well on track to meet its targets for reducing rainforest destruction. Brazil's declining deforestation rate was attributed in several studies to a drop in global emissions from tropical deforestation since 2005. Deforestation is now estimated to account for around 10 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, down from 15-18 percent a decade ago. Norway’s pledge of one billion dollars to protect Brazil’s rainforests couldn’t have hurt either…

7. Toxic Sludge Travesty in Hungary

A million cubic meters of red sludge devastated two Hungarian villages, killing nine, and chemically burning about a hundred more. Unlike something out of a horror film, the red sludge was actually waste product from an aluminum processor, and flooded the villages after a dam containing the waste broke. Humans were not the only casualty, as many local rivers saw their freshwater life die off from the sludge invasion. At this point, even though the sludge eventually reached the Danube, scientists believe that its levels of heavy metals are not high enough to cause long term damage.

8. No More Palm Oil from Rainforests

Greenpeace started this chain reaction, posting an ad linking food-giant Nestle’s palm oil production to rainforests destruction in Southeast Asia. Nestle then decided to ban the video from YouTube, citing copyright infringement, which then sparked a media frenzy of on-line outrage. Months later, Nestle waived the white flag, putting forward a detailed plan to rid all of its products—not just those containing palm oil—from any 'deforestation footprint'. A big win for the environment, although there are many more giant food corporations that need to be wrestled into the same capitulation…

9. Cancun Agreements Put Global Climate Change Issues Back on Track

Progress at the 16th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Cancun, Mexico raised hopes that the multilateral process is back on track toward a global climate framework. Twenty-six (26) individual agreements were reached, with programs advancing at the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism, which aim to compensate developing countries for protecting their forests. The Cancun Agreement also set forth peatlands restoration as a climate change mitigation strategy. Additionally, parties agreed to create a Green Climate Fund, which will mobilize and administer up to $100 billion a year by 2020. The fund will be run by the United Nations rather than the World Bank, under the supervision of a board with "equal representation" from developed and developing countries. The Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism will be strengthened to encourage investments in green emission reduction projects in the developing world.

10. New Species!

While species continue to disappear from our planet, we are also discovering many new ones! 2010 saw the discovery of a new monkey in Brazil and another new monkey in Myanmar, a strange new carnivore and a new species of lemur were announced in Madagascar, and DNA and sound analysis proved the existence of a new ape in Southeast Asia, and a camera trap has photographed what is likely a new species of elephant shrew in Kenya! The sad note to this happy news is that each of these new mammal species is thought to be threatened with extinction, with some of them already on the verge of disappearing forever. We need to step up our conservation efforts with great haste to prevent these new species from falling victim to extinction! For a discussion on species conservation, check out: "Species Conservation", and for more on some of the species we have lost: "Lost Species".

The above information was adapted from articles compiled on http://news.mongabay.com/2010/1220-top_10_2010.html and http://topics.npr.org/article/03YB1STeb01HQ. It is important to reflect on the above information as our world moves into a new year. If there are any significant stories that you would like to add, please do so below.

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1 http://news.mongabay.com/2010/1220-top_10_2010.html




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