Record floods in Australia are causing catastrophic damage to infrastructure in the state of Queensland and have forced 75% of its coal mines, which fuel Asia’s steel mills, to halt work, Reuters quoted the state’s premier as saying. The flooding has affected an area the size of France and Germany.
2010 was exceptional for natural disasters – a year in which 295,000 people were killed and US$130 billion in economic damage occurred, Agence France-Presse cited the world's top reinsurer, Munich Re, as saying. The high number of weather-related catastrophes in 2010, along with record temperatures, “provide further indications of advancing climate change”, the company said.
Native and conservation groups in Alaska have succeeded in challenging clean-air permits granted to Shell Oil to drill exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, the Associated Press reported. At question was the impact of nitrogen-dioxide emissions from the company’s ships on the local environment.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made public a new website, the NOAA Deepwater Horizon Library, centralising a wide range of material relating to the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Indonesia has chosen one of its largest and richest provinces – Central Kalimantan -- to test efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by saving forest and peatlands, Reuters reported. The move is a key part of a US$1 billion climate deal with Norway, under which Norway will pay Indonesia for proven emissions reductions.
Researchers and planters in India are worried that a rise in temperatures and a change in rainfall patterns are threatening the production and quality of Assam’s famous tea, according to The Independent. The north-eastern state produces 55% of India's tea, but crop yields are decreasing amid fears of a correlation with climate change.
The US embassy in Paris once advised Washington to start a trade war against any European Union country that opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, The Guardian quoted newly released WikiLeaks cables as showing. The recommendation followed French moves to ban a Monsanto-produced corn variety in late 2007.
Spain has bolstered its credentials as a world leader in renewable energy by exporting electricity to France for the first time, The Guardian reported. During recent strikes, dozens of French power stations were forced to close and Spanish production was imported to meet the shortfall.
Thousands of blackbirds fell from the sky in the US states of Arkansas and Louisiana, baffling biologists, the Associated Press said. Scientists suggested that new-year fireworks had frightened and disoriented the birds; others suspected foul weather. Similar bird deaths were reported in Sweden, the AP reported.
Also in free-fall are four common species of US bumblebee, according to The Guardian. A 96% decline in recent decades -- thought to be the result of disease and low genetic diversity -- could have devastating implications for plant pollination.
The number of China's wild pandas has increased 17% to 1,864 in past decade, a government survey has found, but habitats have become increasingly fragmented and populations more dispersed