Concerned viewers, on today's episode of Planet Earth: Our Loving Home we'll examine natural catastrophes that affected humanity and our planet in 2010. Our Earth is suffering from a severe fever due to anthropogenic global warming.
In 2010, the average global temperature tied with the years 1998 and 2005 for the warmest on record. Extreme natural events such as earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, landslides, heat waves, droughts, and severe cold spells are becoming more frequent and intense.
In 2010, a total of 950 natural disasters occurred, many of which left devastating casualties. According to Munich Re, one of the world's largest insurers, 2010's natural disasters took approximately 295,000 lives and incurred damage of over US$130 billion.
These figures are markedly higher than 2009's 11,000 fatalities and US$60 billion in damage and the 30-year average of 66,000 deaths and US$95 billion in damage.
HOST: With the heating of the planet, ice sheets are retreating worldwide at a frightening pace. Patrick Wu a geophysicist at the University of Calgary, Canada has stated, “The pressure of the ice sheet suppresses earthquakes, so removing that load triggers them.”
And Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical Hazards at University College London, England has noted, “It shouldn't come as a surprise that the loading and unloading of the Earth's crust by ice or water can trigger seismic and volcanic activity and even landslides.”
In 2010 massive earthquakes disrupted life in Haiti, Chile, China and other nations. The most devastating event was the Haiti earthquake, which leveled the capital city Port-au-Prince on January 12, and claimed the lives of a staggering 222,570 people. The Haiti quake was the second largest in terms of fatalities over the last hundred years, surpassed only by the 1976 Tangshan earthquake in China.
Aasen (m): It had a center here just about 17 kilometers from Port-au-Prince and the destruction in the city is unbelievable.
Victim (m): It was while the earth was shaking and everybody was running, I went to see and I saw that the house had collapsed on my mother.
Veneman (f): It is estimated that 46% of Haiti's nearly 10-million people are under the age of 18. The special needs of children for food, shelter and protection must be factored in at the very onset of relief efforts.
Widespread electricity outages in the aftermath have plunged the city into darkness at night, escalating the distress as the many injured overwhelm hospital grounds and other survivors search desperately for missing relatives as well as basic supplies like food and water.
HOST: Then in February an 8.8-magnitude temblor, 500 times stronger than Haiti's, struck off the coast of Chile's Maule Region, causing a tsunami, killing 520 people, damaging 370,000 homes and producing a nationwide blackout that affected 93% of the population.
Vera (m): Here the intensity was 8.2 on the Richter scale, with a two-meter-high tsunami wave that swept along the coastline, wiping out 168 summer holiday homes, where five people drowned. Within the city, 1,700 homes were damaged of which 150 were totally destroyed and five high-rise buildings collapsed. Bridges also collapsed, with water and electricity also completely out.
Victim (m): There were a lot of people on Orrego Island who disappeared. One could sense the cries of the people, but no one could do anything. We have a lot of sadness, a lot of sadness.
HOST: Global warming has also induced volcanoes such as Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull to erupt more easily, Because Earth's increased temperatures cause ice loss, which in turn releases pressure on the hot rocks beneath the Earth's surface. Beginning on April 14, 2010 Eyjafjallajökull's eruption scattered volcanic ash into the atmosphere and restricted air traffic across Europe.
Most of Iceland's glaciers and ice caps, which cover 11.1% of the country's land mass, are located above volcanoes. Thus, thinning and melting ice may soon awaken many other dormant volcanoes in the region.
Veli Albert Kallio (m): So it's almost certain, the big danger is only when it happens under a big glacier like Vatnajökull or the Greenland ice sheet that it really would melt. When the ice melting becomes more severe, the volcanic eruptions become more frequent.
So there's a real danger of a runaway event and tipping point that it becomes contagious, and this could add to the global warming melting, to destabilize the ice sheet, then the ice will slide out like the indigenous nations have said that it will.
HOST: Preliminary data from the World Health Organization shows that flooding caused 6,300 deaths in 59 countries from January to September 2010. The Pakistan flood was the most destructive, producing unprecedented damage in the country.
More than 20-million people were affected, with nearly 2,000 deaths, almost 3,000 injured and over 1.9-million homes damaged or destroyed. The economic cost of the floods is estimated to be US$9.5 billion. Scientists say that monsoon rains magnified by climate change are the disaster's primary cause. High temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the rapid onset of the La Niña effect, which causes lower temperatures in the central Pacific, created the conditions for intense rainfall in Pakistan.
Ajmal (m): Flood waters came at 3:00 AM. All we could do was save ourselves. Most of our stuff is buried under the rubble and our house is destroyed.
Bloch: The number of individuals that have been provided shelter is between 1.2 and 1.5 million. The support arriving in the pipeline is estimated at another 2.5-million individuals that can be assisted with shelter. So putting those together you are looking at just short of four-million individuals that will be assisted with shelter. The estimated need is somewhere around eight million. Therefore there is still a sizable shortfall in the shelter needs.
HOST: Last year in China, floods and landslides killed more than 3,100 and left over 1,000 missing. In August a fatal mudslide caused by torrential rains in northwestern Gansu province struck Zhuoqu county and claimed the lives of more than 1,400 residents.
Flood victim (m): Many of my seedlings were drowned, which means I won't have any crop harvest this year.
Flood victim (m): This used to be the main road in the village which led to the levee. After it was broken, all the water flowed in our direction along the road. Now some parts of this road are filled with sand. Here, for example, where it is lower, it is also submerged and cars can't drive through.
HEAT WAVE, WILDFIRE
HOST: Also in 2010 unprecedented heat and high temperatures were recorded due to increasingly severe global warming. Eighteen nations, including Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Bolivia and Sudan, set records for the hottest day in history. And on September 27, Los Angeles, California, USA set a record, hitting 45 degrees Celsius. Pakistan hit 53.5 degrees Celsius on May 26 in the town of Mohenjodaro.
Renowned US climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, a lead author of the Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated, “These (weather) events would not have happened without global warming.” In addition, from June to September a heat wave occurred in central Russia, the Volga region, the southern Urals and Siberia.
With temperatures often reaching 40 degrees Celsius, at least 56,000 deaths were attributed to the excessive heat and severely polluted air from several hundred wildfires. Scientists believe that “blocking events” affecting a global jetstream were the main causes of the disaster.
These high-latitude winds usually travel from west to east, but this time, they were unexpectedly held up due to a change in the so-called Rossby waves or up-and-down waves within the jetstream.
August wildfires in northern Portugal destroyed approximately 70,000 hectares in national parks and residential areas. The conditions preceding the country's 29 separate fires featured weeks of extremely hot weather in July, which was the driest on record for Portugal in the past 80 years.
HOST: Due to intense drought conditions in 2010, Russia also suffered from untold crop losses, the worst in 130 years. 10-million hectares, a shocking 25% of the nation's farmland, which had previously been growing grain, was destroyed due to lack of water and rampant wildfires. Song Lianchun, chief of China's National Climate Center, in a summary of China's natural disasters during 2010 reported that South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Southwest China's Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces and Chongqing municipality suffered the worst drought in 100 years.
Farmer (f): The climate has gone bad in recent years. In some previous years we had some big rain, and the water was plenty. This year is the worst.
Farmer (m): Villages get water from the Xiaobai River down there. People from our village must go there at 4 or 5 AM. If we go there later than that, we can't get any water.
HOST: In 2010 severe cold and snow storms struck Asia, Northern Europe, North America and South America. In the northern hemisphere, unusual Arctic warming, which brought severely cold winds and heavy snow to eastern Eurasia and North America, intensified the freezing conditions. Beijing, China had 33 centimeters of heavy snow in January, paralyzing air traffic, and London, England experienced extreme cold and 25 centimeters of snow in December.
It was also the UK's coldest month in 100 years. Hundreds of thousands of Mongolians were struck by terrible cold and blizzards, with temperatures dropping to minus 40 degrees Celsius or more in early January. A cold wave struck southern Nepal at the same time, causing fatalities among the elderly and children.
Chaudhary (m): There was a little sunlight for about half an hour the day before yesterday but it could not give any relief, and even now it is very difficult for us to tell as to how many days this cold wave will prevail.
In Peru, uncommonly cold weather in August affected nearly half the country, claiming the lives of at least 250 children under age five, and also affecting other vulnerable groups such as the elderly and expectant mothers.
Torres (m): These low temperatures have reached about 10 degrees below zero, sometimes up to 15 degrees below zero. Those low temperatures have brought serious consequences in children, the elderly.
Cold victim (f): Our children here, it's so cold, sometimes they die from pneumonia.
HOST: The warming of our planet is largely driven by factory farming. In the 2009 report “Livestock and Climate Change,” published in World Watch magazine, it was estimated that over 51% of human-caused, global, greenhouse-gas emissions arise from producing and consuming animal products. How can we as individuals tackle climate change and thus alleviate the natural calamities occurring around us?
The quickest and most effective way is to stop consuming animal products and choose the environmentally friendly, organic plant-based diet. Through global adoption of the vegan lifestyle the release of greenhouse gases will be minimized, temperatures will begin to cool and climate stability will return to the planet.