The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2012 and 2012 Deselect

  1. Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the main cause of global warming –increased by 3%, reaching an all-time high of 34 billion tonnes in 2011. In China, the world’s most populous country, average emissions of CO2 increased by 9% to 7.2 tonnes per capita. China is now within the range of 6 to 19 tonnes per capita emissions of the major industrialised countries. In the European Union, CO2 emissions dropped by 3% to 7.5 tonnes per capita. The United States remain one of the largest emitters of CO2, with 17.3 tonnes per capita, despite a decline due to the recession in 2008-2009, high oil prices and an increased share of natural gas. These are the main findings of the annual report ‘Trends in global CO2 emissions’, released on 18 July 2012 by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

  2. If global warming continues at its current pace, the planet will increasingly suffer irreversible damages to its biodiversity, natural resources and substantial losses of human life and territory according to a joint report published on 10 May 2012, by CARE International, Germanwatch, ActionAid and WWF at the Climate Change Conference in Bonn. The joint report called "Into Unknown Territory: The limits to adaptation and reality of loss and damage from climate impacts" concludes that adaptation to climate change alone will no longer suffice. Governments will need to take new measures to deal with extreme impacts and prepare for losses due to climate change. Unless substantial efforts are taken immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage climate resilient development, global warming could exceed 4 and even 6°C. The costs will place a massive burden even on industrialized countries, whilst massively increasing poverty and reversing development gains in poorer regions. The figures are staggering, conservative estimates show that we could risk around 2 trillion USD in economic and non-economic impacts worldwide by the year 2060 combined with potentially irreversible losses to ecosystems and biodiversity.

  3. Catastrophic nuclear accidents such as the core meltdowns in Chernobyl and Fukushima are more likely to happen than previously assumed. Based on the operating hours of all civil nuclear reactors and the number of nuclear meltdowns that have occurred, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have calculated that such events may occur once every 10 to 20 years (based on the current number of reactors)—some 200 times more often than estimated in the past. The researchers also determined that, in the event of such a major accident, half of the radioactive caesium-137 would be spread over an area of more than 1,000 kilometers away from the nuclear reactor. Their results show that Western Europe is likely to be contaminated about once in 50 years by more than 40 kilobecquerel of caesium-137 per square meter. Published in Atmos. Chem. Phys. 12 May 2012.

  4. The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf fringing the Weddell Sea, Antarctica, may start to melt rapidly in this century and no longer act as a barrier for ice streams draining the Antarctic Ice Sheet. These predictions are made by climate researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association in the 10 May 2012 edition of the science magazine “Nature“. They refute the widespread assumption that ice shelves in the Weddell Sea would not be affected by the direct influences of global warming due to the peripheral location of the Sea.

  5. On 7 May 2012 the Club of Rome launched the report, "2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, by Jorgen Randers". Published in the run-up to the Rio Summit, this Report to the Club of Rome: 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years (published by US publishers Chelsea Green) looks at issues first raised in The Limits to Growth, 40 years ago. This earlier Report, also to the Club of Rome, of which Randers was a co-author, created shock waves by questioning the ideal of permanent growth.

  6. The IPCC released its Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) on 28 March 2012. The report assesses the evidence that climate change has led to changes in climate extremes and the extent to which policies to avoid prepare for, respond to and recover from the risks of disaster can reduce the impact of such events.

  7. On 15 March 2012, "One Life" an highly acclaimed feature-length BBC documentary started in Germany.

  8. On 28 February 2012, Greenpeace released “Lessons from Fukushima” in Tokyo, a report which shows that it was not a natural disaster which led to the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant on Japan’s east coast, but the failures of the Japanese Government, regulators and the nuclear industry.

  9. The 2011 Report on the Environmental Economy presents the latest developments, challenges and prospects of the environmental economy in Germany. The report documents the sector's increasing importance for the German economy and illustrates that Germany has already made considerable progress with the ecological modernisation of the economy and society: between 1990 and 2010 energy productivity rose by 38.6 percent and raw material productivity by 46.8 percent. There were also positive developments regarding air pollutant emissions: a 56.4 percent reduction was achieved in the reporting period compared with 1990. Germany is also at the forefront of recovery of waste and its environmentally sound disposal: around 90 percent of construction waste and 63 percent of municipal and production waste are already being recycled.