A few environmental events of note for 2011:
Human population reached 7 billion.
As for other living populations, one can presume that the numbers of humans to wild animals, and certainly numbers of species, is in inverse proportion.
This was the most extreme weather year for the U.S. – tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, flooding, record-setting snowfalls and rains – since weather has been reliably recorded. The resultant financial losses were over $50 billion. Texas, the second largest state, had the most billion dollar disasters, including the recent heat and drought which has taken its toll on cattle, and so, less beef for us.
In Africa, widespread drought has caused famine among millions of people.
Australia’s floods covered an area the size of France and Germany combined. Also this year, the country imposed a carbon tax on the biggest polluters, second in size only to Europe’s. In its State of the Environment 2011 report, one of the headlines is “Australians cannot afford to see themselves as separate from the environment.”
Aside from the tremendous human loss from the quake and tsunami that hit Japan in March, as the tragedy unfolded, the world’s future reliance on nuclear power began being questioned by many governments, and then answered by some.
Investments in renewable energy grew 32% in 2010, more in developing countries, and were projected to double in the next several years. The cost of producing solar panels has dropped dramatically. India, for example, will be supplying millions of homes with power from the sun within the next few years.
Sea ice is still melting at alarming rates, but elsewhere, deforestation in the Amazon is at its lowest level in 23 years.
Americans’ gasoline use continues to decline.
Here’s to a better 2012!