2010: The Biggest Environmental Disasters

2010: The Year in Environmental Disasters

From Treehugger

bp gulf oil spill deepwater horizon photo

We wish we could say the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the only horrific environmental disaster this year.

From red toxic sludge spewing through Hungary to floods in Pakistan and heatwaves in Russia, 2010 was a year of record-setting natural disasters — all of which were exacerbated by climate change.

As part of our Year in Review Series, here’s a sobering look back at the year’s worst environmental catastrophes.

bp gulf gulf oil spill photo explosion

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In one of the year’s biggest stories — environmental or otherwise — the Gulf of Mexico was flooded with more than 185 million gallons of oil after a rig contracted to BP exploded in April.Even now, the toll of the spill on sea life, plants, Gulf industry, and the lives of the residents is still accumulating…and we still wonder if the fish is safe for consumption.

hungary sludge photo

Toxic Sludge Spills into Hungary

In Ajka, Hungary, in October, a containment pond — which holds red toxic sludge, a “byproduct of bauxite refining for aluminum” — burst, sending 24 million cubic feet of the sludge over the town.The poisonous material killed all the fish in the Marcal River, destroyed villages, and could take years to clean up.

Oil Spill in Michigan

Canadian company Enbridge took the blame for a major oil spill in Michigan.The spill sent 800,000 gallons of oil into a creek connected to the Kalamazoo River (the Kalamazoo also connects to Lake Michigan), was “called the worst in Midwest history,” and reportedly “soaked” local wildlife.

russia heatwave smog photo

Heatwaves in Russia

Record high temperatures — of up to 100 degrees F — and forest fires in Russia combined to lower a mask of smog over Moscow this summer, while a heavy drought impacted the agricultural industry.Even president Dmitry Medvedev pointed to climate change as a cause, saying, “This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.”

pakistan flooding underwater weather photo

Floods in Pakistan

Monsoons and rising water flooded more than 1/5 of Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,400 residents and the homelessness of 14 million others.The floods were believed to be the worst in more than 80 years — and considered a result of climate change. According to NASA, “the frequency of extremely heavy rain and floods increases as global warming increases.”

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Deforestation in Haiti

In Haiti, deforestation isn’t a new problem: The country has a reported 22% drop in forests in the last two decades, and 99.2% of the country’s original forests are gone.The lack of trees can make the country more susceptible to the effects of other natural disasters — including earthquakes and mudslides.

coral bleaching 95 percent photo

Coral Bleaching in the Philippines

The 2009-2010 El Nino weather pattern raised the temperature of ocean water in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean — but the long-term effect of that boost on coral could be permanent.Up to 95% of the coral in that region is bleached, and it may not recover.

china copper mine spill photo

Copper Mine Spill in China

Hungary wasn’t the only company facing a toxic mining spill: In China, a top mining company killed almost 1,900 tons of fish.But this one didn’t appear to be accidental; the “320,000 cubic feet of ‘leaked’ waste water actually flowed from a sludge point to the TIng river through an ‘illegally built passage’,” according to investigators.

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