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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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 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.
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.
- 2010: The Year in Environmental Disasters (Slideshow) (treehugger.com)
- The Most Popular and Memorable Stories of 2010 (treehugger.com)
- Top 10 environmental stories of 2010. (news.mongabay.com)
- Toxic Sludge in Hungary Burns Victims ‘To the Bone’ [Disasters] (gawker.com)
- Elizabeth Rosenthal: Hungary’s Red Sludge Spill: The Media and the Eco-Disaster (yubanet.com)
- The BP Oil Spill’s Long-Term Threat to Bluefin Tuna (dailyfinance.com)
- Hungary’s river of death, as seen from space [Disaster] (io9.com)
- Toxic Spill in Hungary Could Take One Year to Clean Up [Video] (gawker.com)
- Oil field brine proposed to treat Hungary’s red sludge spill (gizmag.com)
- US joins deluge of lawsuits over oil spill (bbc.co.uk)
- The Other Oil Spill: Michigan Gets a Taste [Oil Spill] (gawker.com)
- Chevy Volt Recycles Gulf Oil Spill for Car Parts (cleantechnica.com)
- The Earth in 2010 (scientificamerican.com)
- Chemical Safety Board: Keep Companies Away From BP Oil Spill Evidence (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Consequences of the Oil Spill (travelinsurance.org)
- Oil Spill: U.S. Sues BP and Others for Deepwater Horizon Disaster (ecoworld.com)
- US sues BP for ‘violations of safety’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Greenpeace live | Greenpeace USA (f33dyourhead.wordpress.com)
- BP oil spill: ‘mass hysteria on a par with the Dutch tulip bubble’ (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- White House: No New Oil Drilling In Eastern Gulf Of Mexico For Next 7 Years (huffingtonpost.com)