Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Sobering Look At The Year We Left Behind

By Theodora Filis

As we take a sobering look at the year we're leaving behind, let us also take a moment to remember those who have perished in this year's floods, scorching heat and freezing cold.

Nineteen nations set new temperature records this year marking 2010 as the warmest year the earth has yet recorded.

Dozens of people have been killed and thousands have had to abandon their homes as floods and mudslides ravaged Colombia,Venezuela, Australia, Britain and the US this month. In the central highlands of Colombia, rainfall was more than double the average of 3.5 inches. Record rains throughout the state of California have caused major damage, prompting evacuations in some areas and shutting down busy freeways

Forecasters predict that this December is likely to become the wettest on record for the region. In less than a week, downtown Los Angeles has already had a third of its average annual rainfall.

Within the first days of 2010, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil suffered mudslides that killed at least 85 people and forced more than 4,000 to evacuate their homes. Then Haiti was hit by a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed approx. 250,000 people.

A little over a month later, Portugal’s Madeira suffered floods and mudslides, killing at least 42 people and injuring 100. Bridges were washed away and the airport had to be closed.

BP's Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on April 20, as the real damage was downplayed through pressure from the Obama Administration and BP officials who were more concerned about BP’s falling stock price than they were about long term environmental damage.

Deadly flooding in Pakistan leaves more than 1,600 dead. The Pakistan floods affected 14 million people. At one point, almost 1/5 of the land was under water. The floods began in July after heavy monsoon rains affected the Indus River basin.

In Gansu, China, more than 1,471 people were killed due to mudslides in August, while Russia suffers from scorching heat and wildfires that killed 15,000 people.

Average temperatures could increase by as much as 12 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century if emissions continue to rise, a figure that would easily make the world virtually uninhabitable for humans. A global temperature rise of just 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit would cause a catastrophic domino effect, bringing weather extremes that would result in food and water shortages and destructive floods – much more devastating than those we have experienced this year.

The global warming we are experiencing is not natural. People are causing it. Only CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from human activities explain the observed warming now taking place on earth.

Glaciers are melting and are a contributor to a rise in sea-level. Between 1961 and 1997, the world's glaciers lost 890 cubic miles of ice.

Could December’s severe weather be as a result of the unprecedented rate at which the polar sea ice is melting? It’s perhaps the most dramatic, startling visual evidence of global warming, and it’s got scientists rushing to figure out just how big of an effect the melting is going to have on the rest of the world.

For many years influential businesses and governments have been against the idea of global warming. Many have invested heavily in order to discredit what has generally been accepted for a long time as fact. Now, the mainstream is worried about climate change impacts. Some businesses that once engaged in disinformation campaigns have shifted opinions, requesting government regulation and direction on global warming issues. Many others are still attempting to undermine climate change action and concerns.

Will all this mean a different type of spin and propaganda with attempts at green washing and misleading information becoming the norm, or will there be a major shift in attitudes to see concrete solutions being proposed and implemented?

We now need to focus on efforts that encourage forward momentum with constant and steady change.