The environment in 2011 – the main extreme events!

Being one of the editors for the Cabi resource Environmental Impact and as 2011 comes to a close; I thought I should close the working year with a blog on what happened around the world with regard to environment. One thing that comes straight to mind is that 2011 saw a record rise in greenhouse gas emissions, but what else happened in 2011?


We saw the second worst nuclear disaster ever in the world, in Fukushima, Japan, which made many wonder whether nuclear power is such a good option as a replacement energy for fossil fuel. Talking of disasters, we saw a few of them happening in various parts of the world, including the severe drought in the Horn of Africa; floods in Australia in the beginning of the year, followed by the earthquakes that hit a few countries including Argentina, Chile, Iran, and Pakistan; and the very recent floods in the Philippines, which was considered a national calamity as the death toll rose. Only this morning we heard in the news about the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. The USA alone experienced 14 separate natural disasters due to weather extremes in 2011, including flooding and droughts. Scientific evidence gathered over the last couple of decades suggests that the increase in weather extremes, such as floods and droughts are due to a changing climate resulted from an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gases emissions.

A changing climate is expected to impact the global hydrological cycle and vary the patterns of supply and demand of water for agriculture, which is the main user of freshwater, and affect the world’s food resources. An article in the Guardian online says that “massive droughts affected some of the world's richest and poorest communities. The worst drought in 60 years affected more than 10 million people and led to the death of thousands of people and millions of animals in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.” Droughts are a clear example of what changes in the hydrological cycle can do. An FAO report summarizes current knowledge of the anticipated impacts of climate change on water availability for agriculture and examines the implications for local and national food security. The report is aimed at helping policy makers and planners to frame their adaptation responses when considering both the water variable in agriculture and the competing demands from other users. 

The world population reached 7 billion in 2011, which will also mean an added pressure to food and water resources, and talking about billions, the Worldwatch Institute published a press release on Wednesday showing how in some parts of the world, close to one billion people go hungry, while over one billion ton of food is wasted in other parts, especially this time of the year, when food is an important part of the Christmas tradition. Over one billion people are overweight while close to one billion are undernourished. Clearly, we’re already living in a world where extremes are becoming the norm. I will try and not over-do it during the Christmas holidays, by buying and cooking just enough food to feed the family and avoid throwing anything away. I don't want to add to the billion ton of waste food!

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Season’s greetings from all of us at CABI's handpicked and carefully sorted team! 

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