The Environment Chronicle Notable environmental events between 2010 and 2010 Deselect
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An international research team has compared the hot summers of 2003 and 2010 in detail for the first time and published their findings in Science. The heatwave of 2010 across Eastern Europe and Russia was unprecedented in every respect: Europe has never experienced so large summer temperature anomalies in the last 500 years. The summer of 2010 was extreme. Russia was especially hard hit by the extraordinary heat. Devastating fires caused by the dry conditions covered an area of 1 million hectares, causing crop failures of around 25%; the total damage ran to about USD 15 billion. The 2010 heatwave shattered all the records both in terms of the deviation from the average temperatures and its spatial extent. The temperatures -- depending on the time period considered -- were between 6.7°C and 13.3°C above the average. The heatwave covered around 2 million km2. On average, the summer of 2010 was 0.2°C warmer in the whole of Europe than in 2003. The reason for the heatwaves in both 2003 and 2010 was a large, persistent high-pressure system associated by areas of low pressure in the east and west.
The average specific CO2 emissions in the year 2008 were 153.5 gCO2/km. This is a decrease by 3.3% or 5.2 grams per kilometre from the previous year (158.7 gCO2/km in 2007) which is the largest relative drop in specific emissions since the beginning of the monitoring scheme. Both petrol and diesel vehicles improved by more than 5 grams per kilometre in comparison to the year 2007. Since the year 2000, petrol vehicles improved by 11% while diesel vehicles only by 6%. On the other hand, alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) improved by 34% since year 2000. In 2008 the share of AFV almost doubled since the previous year and AFV are now accounting for 1.3% of new passenger car registrations.
Pollution of the climate owing to waste management activities was at a level of some 38 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents in Germany in 1990. Up until 2006 this burden had lightened to about 18 million tonnes. The overall decline in emissions of climate-damaging gases-- thanks in particular to ending disposal of untreated residential waste- amounts to about 56 million tonnes, which is a volume roughly that of the annual CO2 emissions of 7.7 million cars, or about 20 percent of registered vehicles in Germany. These are the results of a jointly commissioned study titled Klimaschutzpotenziale der Abfallwirtschaft [Climate protection potential of waste industry], which was introduced today by President Peter Kurth of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Entsorgungs-, Wasser- und Rohstoffwirtschaft e.V. (BDE), and President Jochen Flasbarth of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) in Berlin. The study took stock of climate protection efforts made by the waste management industry since 1990 and points out other potential for further measures in Germany and EU 27 until 2020. By the year 2020 almost ten million additional tonnes of CO2 equivalents can be saved over 1996 levels, particularly by means of increased materials recovery and improved recycling, as well as greater efficiency in the use of residential waste and used wood to produce energy. The study illustrates that the waste industry can contribute roughly 14 percent to the fulfilment of Germany’s CO2 reduction targets to be reached by 2020 if the detailed measures were implemented.
Tiger numbers have fallen by more than 70 percent in slightly more than a decade in the Greater Mekong, with the region’s five countries containing only 350 tigers, according to a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released on 25 January 2010.
Germany met its climate protection target under the Kyoto Protocol in 2008. In 2008 greenhouse gas emissions were 22.2 percent lower than in 1990. This corresponds to a reduction of almost 280 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. This detailed data for the year 2008 is included in the National Inventory Report 2010 compiled by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), which has just been published jointly by the Federal Environment Ministry and UBA. The greatest success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions was achieved in the energy sector. Here the expansion of renewables has had a positive impact. The amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere from energy production was just under 20 million tonnes lower in 2008 than in the previous year. Compared with 1990, the reduction even amounted to 66 million tonnes of CO2. The increase of emissions of private households, as shown in the Inventory, is a statistical effect and can be put down to a decline in fuel oil sales due to the VAT rise in 2007 (pull-forward effect into 2006). Emissions in the other sectors were very close to 2007 levels. The economic crisis, which began in 2008, only had a very limited impact on emissions, but its influence will be much more pronounced in the 2009 statistics.
Mankind’s closest living relatives – the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates – are on the brink of extinction and in need of urgent conservation measures according to Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008–2010. The list includes five primate species from Madagascar, six from Africa, 11 from Asia, and three from Central and South America, all of which are the most in need of urgent conservation action. Almost half (48 percent) of the world’s 634 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. The main threats are habitat destruction, particularly from the burning and clearing of tropical forests (which results in the release of around 16 percent of the global greenhouse gases causing climate change), the hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.
On 21 February 2010, the German premiere of the documentary film "Oceans" took place in Berlin. In the presence of German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, director Jacques Perrin and co-author Francois Sarano numerous celebrity guests experienced the impressive film. "Oceans" was created by French director and actor Jacques Perrin and his colleague Jacques Cluzaud. The film allows viewers to get a perspective of the underwater world that had previously been inaccessible. Directors Perrin and Cluzaud spent four years with a team of divers, engineers, and scientists on a voyage of discovery.
The documentary film Planet Plastic was launched on 25 February 2010 in German cinemas. Werner Boote presents an up-close and personal view of the controversial and fascinating material that has found its way into every facet of our daily lives: plastic. He takes us on a journey around the globe, following plastic through its 100 years of “glorious triumph” and showing us what an unexpected impact plastic has on our world.
The Helmholtz Association’s network of Regional Climate Offices has produced a regional climate atlas for Germany showing the possible effects of climate change at the regional level. The climate scenarios for Germany’s federal states are now available to the public for online reference. The Regional Climate Atlas is based on climate calculations resulting from dynamic regional climate calculation models. Climate models used so far include: COSMO-CLM, the regional climate model shared by over 30 international research institutes; REMO, the regional climate model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology; and the RCAO regional climate model used by the Swedish weather service. The regional climate models are based on scenarios of varying concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions as calculated by the UN’s IPCC climate panel. In its present form, the Climate Atlas draws on a total of 12 different climate calculations. The spatial resolution of the individual climate calculations currently ranges between 50 and 10 km. Figures for Germany’s federal states are based on calculations for the geographical centre of each state. The Helmholtz Association’s network of four Regional Climate Offices pursues questions of climate change at the regional level. The new Climate Service Center will become the Helmholtz Association’s central service network for national climate issues.
About one third of the population has voiced problems concerning aircraft noise, according to a representative survey done by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Five million people report severe disturbance. The complaints lodged by the population are justified, as also reflected in a new UBA study by Prof. Greiser titled Risikofaktor nächtlicher Fluglärm [ Risk factor night-time aircraft noise]. As concerns cardiovascular diseases, it has been proven that the risk of disease in persons affected by increasing exposure to aircraft noise is higher than in those not exposed at all. For psychiatric disorders there is one consistent result: the incidence of depressive disorders in females is significantly higher.
More than 155,000 tonnes of what is sometimes hazardous electronic waste are exported annually from Germany to non-European destinations, a volume which includes some 50,000 tonnes of PC and television monitors alone. The latter often contain metals as well as flame-retardant bromide compounds such as hazardous polybrominated diphenyl ether (PentaBDE). Even defective appliances are often re-classified as “functional”, then usually shipped to Asia and Africa where they are only rarely recycled ecologically. These are the findings of a new study commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), which was presented at CEBIT in Hannover on 4 March 2010. n their one-and-a-half-year-long study experts from the Hamburg Institute for Environmental Strategies (Ökopol) compiled the most solid information as yet on the origin and volume of exported devices. The equipment came from flea markets, second hand shops or were retrieved from junk yards. From there it is often transported via collection points for export, usually by sea. Besides harmless metallic raw materials, WEEE also houses a host of hazardous materials which must be recycled properly to avoid harming human health and the environment. An old computer contains more than 100 different materials, and conventional monitors contain lamps which must also be disposed of professionally.
A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team led by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov. The research results, published in the March 5, 2010 edition of the journal Science, show that the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is starting to leak large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Shakhova's research results show that the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is already a significant methane source, releasing 7 teragrams of methane yearly, which is as much as is emitted from the rest of the ocean. A teragram is equal to about 1.1 million tons.
Habitat loss is having a serious impact on Europe’s butterflies, beetles and dragonflies. The release of the European Red List, commissioned by the European Commission, shows that nine percent of butterflies, 11 percent of saproxylic beetles (beetles that depend on decaying wood) and 14 percent of dragonflies are threatened with extinction within Europe. Some species are so threatened that they are at risk of global extinction and are now included in the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Today’s studies reveal that nearly a third (31 percent) of Europe’s 435 butterfly species have declining populations and 9 percent are already threatened with extinction.
The cinema documentary THE 4TH REVOLUTION – EnergyAutonomy describes the possibility to switch to 100% renewables within the next 30 years by telling the stories of its protagonists, a prominent environmental activist, Nobel laureates, innovative businessmen and politicians. It demonstrates the opportunities which will be provided by the energy revolution regarding the sustainable economic development and social and economic fairness. The film was launched in German cinemas on 18 March 2010.
The federal Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB), Germany’s archive documenting environmental quality, provides exhaustive public information. Since 1981 it has collected environmental and human specimens which it analyses for pollutant substances, and put them in long-term storage. The new web application at www.umweltprobenbank.de provides private citizens, scientists, policy and administration officials alike with user-friendly and easily navigable access to topics and data contained in the ESB. The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has operated the Environmental Specimen Bank on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Environment for over 30 years. It comprises one of the central components of environmental observation in Germany. Regular sampling occurs in 13 typical areas within six different eco-system types. Students from the universities of Münster, Halle, Greifswald, and Ulm make annual donations of blood and urine samples to the ESB. The representative environmental and human samples have in part been stored permanently since 1981. This allows retrospective trend analyses of substances for which there was no verification procedure at the time of sampling, or which were mistakenly considered harmless at the time. A public ESB web application has existed since 2000. This new look lends a new and appropriate outfit to the familiar theme.
The current national emissions-reduction pledges accompanying the Copenhagen Accord will not limit global warming to two degrees Celsius. In fact, they imply a global mean temperature increase of more than three degrees Celsius this century. This is reported by a team of researchers led by Joeri Rogelj and Malte Meinshausen of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in the current edition of the journal “Nature”.
Scientists have discovered more than 123 new species in the Heart of Borneo area during the past 3 years – an average of more than 3 new species per month. These fascinating finds include the world’s longest known stick insect, a flame-coloured snake and a colour-changing frog. In total, 67 plants, 29 invertebrates, 17 fish, five frogs, three snakes and two lizards and a brand new species of bird have been discovered. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the list of the discovered species on 22 April 2010.
On 10 May 2010, the third edition of Global Biodiversity Outlook is being launched in a number of cities around the world, including Alexandria, Bonn, Brasilia, Chamonix, London, Manama, Montreal, New York, Nairobi, Panama, and Tokyo. The third edition of Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3), produced by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) confirms that the world has failed to meet its target to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. The report is based on scientific assessments, national reports submitted by governments and a study on future scenarios for biodiversity. Subject to an extensive independent scientific review process, publication of GBO-3 is one of the principal milestones of the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity.
The recently-conducted “Synovate and Deutsche Welle Global Study on Climate Change 2010” has shown that people around the world still see global climate change as a major threat and extreme weather conditions as one of the major risks. Synovate surveyed more than 13,000 people from 18 different countries about the potential threats, the effects and the possibilities that exist to counteract climate change. The “Synovate and Deutsche Welle Global Study on Climate Change 2010” is the third survey that Synovate has completed on this subject. Researchers relied on more than 13,000 respondents from 18 countries for the results, which were collected between February and May throughout the world – including Germany, France, Brazil, USA, China and South Africa.
A new biodiversity management handbook for companies was presented by parliamentary state secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry, Ursula Heinen-Esser, at the international business conference "SusCon" (Sustainable Business and Consumption) in Nuremberg on 15 June 2010. Using many examples, the Corporate Biodiversity Handbook gives companies a clear picture of the importance of biological diversity for business. It also shows what companies can do to actively supportthe conservation of biodiversity in practice.
Only 30 eastern North Pacific right whales are left on the planet, making it the world’s smallest population of whales, according to a paper published in the Royal Society Biology Letters on 30 June 2010. Paul Wade, a research biologist at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, and his colleagues used several different methods, including DNA analysis and photo-identification surveys, to count the eastern North Pacific right whales. The estimates all came to very similar conclusions, all pointing to around 30.
On 7 July 2010 the president of the UBA, Jochen Flasbarth, inaugurated the new biocide information portal (www.biozid.info)in Berlin.
On 8 July 2010 a new report was published by environmental group EEB, Europe’s largest federation of environmental citizens’ organisations. The report, “10 years of Water Framework Directive: a toothless tiger?” reveals that European governments are doing very little to protect and restore Europe’s waters. Based on eight river management plans around Europe, it was discovered that despite eight years of preparation and planning there appears to be little improvement forecast in the coming years. The findings revealed River Basin Management Plans - national plans for protecting and improving water - are showing little or minimal success. Indeed, many of the plans delay any improvements until 2027, suggesting a widespread abuse of the exemptions the law provides.
The business community too is increasingly recognising that the Earth's natural resources represent economic value, business possibilities and opportunities for profit. Worldwide, the costs of biodiversity loss amount to many trillions of dollars and thus have a growing influence on markets and consumers: 60 percent of consumers in America and Europe and more than 90 percent of consumers in Brazil are aware of the problem of biodiversity loss. More than 80 percent of consumers throughout the world said they would no longer buy products from companies whose business plans neglect ecological and social considerations. These are the findings of the recent TEEB for Business Report which was presented on 13 July 2010 at a conference in London. The TEEB experts conclude that companies can only meet today's market requirements if they integrate sustainable biodiversity management into their corporate strategy.
On 30 August 2010, the InterAcademy Council has released its report “Climate Change Assessments - Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCC”. The review committee states that the process to produce the periodic assessment reports has been successful overall. However, it recommends fundamentally reforming the IPCC management structure and strengthening its procedures.
By integrating satellite mapping, airborne-laser technology, and ground-based plot surveys, scientists from the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, with colleagues from the World Wildlife Fund and in coordination with the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment (MINAM), have revealed the first high-resolution maps of carbon locked up in tropical forest vegetation and emitted by land-use practices. These new maps pave the way for accurate monitoring of carbon storage and emissions for the proposed United Nations initiative on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). The study is published in the September 6, 2010, early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
On 9 September 2010 the Report “TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers” was launched. The new report, entitled TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers, prepared by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative hosted and supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, highlights how much cities depend on nature, and illustrates how ecosystem services can provide cost-effective solutions to municipal services.
The world's freshwater turtle populations are being decimated by a perfect storm of habitat loss, hunting and a lucrative pet trade, and urgent action is needed to save them according to new analysis from Conservation International. The new analysis, which has been undertaken for World Water Week, identifies that the worrying decline in many of the world's turtle species is evidence that humanity's management of vital freshwater ecosystems is causing deep and damaging environmental impacts that will affect people and wildlife alike. Dr Peter Paul van Dijk, Director of Conservation International's Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program said: "More than 40 percent of the planet's freshwater turtle species are threatened with extinction – making them among the most threatened groups of animals on the planet. Their decline is an indicator that the freshwater ecosystems that millions of people rely on for irrigation, food and water are being damaged in a manner that could have dire consequences for people and turtles alike."
The world's rivers are in crisis, according to a study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology and the City College of New York (CCNY) that is published in the Sept. 30, 2010 issue of the scientific journal Nature. The study, led by UW-Madison limnologist and professor of zoology Peter McIntyre and CCNY modeler Charles Vörösmarty, combines, for the first time, indices of water security and biodiversity for all of the world's rivers, many of which are severely degraded due to issues of pollution, water diversion and introduced species.
Forests and other wooded areas occupy almost 40% of the total area of the EU, cropland nearly a quarter and grassland a further fifth, while built-up and other artificial areas, such as roads and railways, account for 4%. Regarding socio-economic use, over 40% of the land in the EU is used for agriculture and almost 30% for forestry. The use of land for residential, commercial and industrial purposes accounts for just over 10% of the total area of the EU. These data are published for the first time by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union and are based on a large scale land survey, the Land Use/Cover Area frame Survey (LUCAS), conducted in 2009.
The huge 10-year study involved 2,700 scientists from 80 nations and has revealed what, where, and how much marine life there is in the world’s oceans. The variety of life uncovered in the census is much more than many experts had imagined. So far, 1,200 new species have been officially named and there are 5000 more awaiting descriptions. The total number of marine species described is now about 244,000, but experts estimate there could be more than 1 million. And new species are being described at a rate of about 1,900 per year. The scientific results were reported on October 4, 2010.
Real time maps of air, ground and water pollution can now be made available to everyone thanks to an EU-funded research project called INTAMAP. The INTAMAP project has developed open specifications software to draw up contour maps that not only show the exact location of polluted areas but also illustrate where pollution is coming from and where it is headed. Such information enables public authorities to decide more quickly on appropriate action to tackle the source of the pollution and allows individuals to avoid it. Researchers from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands and the UK worked on the project which received some €1.8 million in EU funding. Applying ICT research to benefit Europe's citizens and businesses is a key element of the Digital Agenda for Europe adopted by the Commission in May 2010.
On 20 October 2010 the final TEEB report was launched at the CBD COP10 meeting in Nagoya, Japan. "Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature" is the last of four reports produced by the U.N. Environmental Program over the past two years and aims to capture how habitats such as tropical forests and coral reefs contribute to countries' economic bottom lines.
On 18 November 2010 the Vice President of the European Parliament, Diana Wallis, introduced a new report, the EU Arctic Footprint and Policy Assessment, in Brussels. The EU Arctic Footprint and Policy Assessment is another step towards a comprehensive EU policy strategy for addressing challenges in the Arctic. In 2009, the EU Council adopted the “Council conclusions on Arctic issues”, emphasising the need for gradual formulation of a policy on Arctic issues to address EU interests and responsibilities in the region.
The first World Ocean Review (WOR) was launched on 18 November 2010 in Hamburg. The non-profit company maribus gGmbH was established two years ago with the aim of raising the public's awareness of the interconnectedness of the marine environment, thus contributing to more effective protection of the world's oceans. The partners who have made such a vital contribution to the production of maribus's first publication, the World Ocean Review, have many years of commitment and expertise in studying the seas at the highest scientific level. They are: the International Ocean Institute (IOI), the Cluster of Excellence "The Future Ocean" and "mare" - the German-language magazine which focuses on the topic of the sea. The result is a comprehensive, detailed and unique report about the state of the world's oceans and their interplay with ecological, economic and sociopolitical conditions.
On 30 November 2010 the European Environment Agency (EEA) released its fourth Environment State and Outlook report — SOER 2010 — a comprehensive assessment of how and why Europe’s environment is changing, and what we are doing about it. SOER 2010 concludes that a fully integrated approach to transforming Europe to a resource-efficient green economy can not only result in a healthy environment, but also boost prosperity and social cohesion.
On 10 December 2010 the Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, published the report 'Environmental statistics and accounts in Europe'. This publication covers key environmental statistics available at Eurostat, the Directorate-General for the Environment of the European Commission and the European Environment Agency.
A representative survey polling 2008 people which the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) carried out in Spring 2010 revealed that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (62 percent) believe that the state should do more to protect the environment. 61 percent are in favour of Germany assuming a pioneering role in international climate protection policy. 85 percent agreed with the statement: “We need a resolute switch to renewable energies“. About three-quarters expect achievement of the environmental policy goal to increase energy efficiency through greater involvement of the state, e.g. cutting ecologically harmful subsidisation policies.
As the 2010 United Nations International Year of Biodiversity comes to a close, the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) announce the completion of The Plant List. This landmark international resource is a working list of all land plant species, fundamental to understanding and documenting plant diversity and effective conservation of plants. The completion of The Plant List accomplishes Target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), which called for a widely accessible working list of known plant species as a step towards a complete world flora. The Plant List can be accessed by visiting www.theplantlist.org.