Environmental events and developments
2011 was a year of environmental extremes. Major droughts and ﬂooding were prominent in the news, and leading climate scientists continued their work to establish whether there is a clear relationship between extreme weather events and climate change. In the ocean, as few as 9 per cent of all species may have been identiﬁed, yet newstudies show that overﬁshing, pollution and climate change severely threaten the future of ocean life. Despite the economic recession, global investments in green energy grew by nearly a third to US$211 billion in 2010. An investment of 2 per cent of GDP in ten key sectors could signiﬁcantly accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.
Box 1: Drought response in the Horn ofAfrica
Some 13 million people in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have been experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades. The region’s most severe drought in 60 years has caused widespread starvation and made access to clean water and sanitation extremely diﬃcult (Box 1). These conditions not only directly aﬀect local communities today, but also weaken theirresiliency to cope with future droughts, diminishing prospects for water and food security in the years to come (Munang and Nkem 2011). Temperatures in the region are expected to continue rising while rainfall patterns change (Anyah and Qui 2011). The crisis in the Horn of Africa is only one of the events in 2011 that exemplify the challenges to be met in the face of an increasingly variable andchanging climate worldwide. Many regions need innovative strategies to address pressures on land and water resources and on agricultural productivity – from building resilience in small-scale farming communities to global commitments to mitigate climate change.
In 2011 the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya became the home of 400 000 people ﬂeeing drought and famine. Credit: Linda Ogwell, Oxfam
2Climate change, extreme weather events and disaster risk management
2011 was a year of record-breaking weather events, which caused a large number of deaths and billions of dollars in damage (Figure 1). It was also the tenth warmest year and the warmest La Niña year on record, as well as the year in which the
Hydro-thermal vents are geysers on the seaﬂoor supporting unique communities. Trawling andmineral mining can cause serious damage to deep sea ecosystems. Credit: Charles Fisher
Drought, accompanied by high food prices, insuﬃcient humanitarian action and restrictions on aid acceptance, has induced mass migration to refugee camps in the Horn of Africa. Famine warnings were issued for this region at the beginning of 2011, but the drought still had an extreme impact. In July the rate ofacute malnutrition in southern Somalia had gone up to 38-50 per cent (FEWSNET 2011). Many early warning systems assess conditions on a country-by-country basis. Their ability to see the larger regional picture is therefore limited, which can aﬀect the adequacy of response eﬀorts (Ververs 2012).
YEAR IN REVIEW 1
Arctic sea ice extent is second lowest on record on 9 September, only slightlyabove the record minimum extent recorded in 2007. Record low temperatures in Fairbanks, Alaska, USA on 15-19 November. The lowest is -41°C on 17 November.
United Kingdom experiences warmest April since record-keeping began in 1910. This is also the warmest April on record in England Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland individually. 2011 is the fourth deadliest year for tornadoes in the UnitedStates. A tornado in Joplin, Missouri, on 22 May kills 157 people. It is the country’s deadliest tornado since modern record-keeping began in 1947. In April a violent sandstorm occurs in northern Germany, the result of extremely dry conditions. There is an 80-vehicle pileup, with 20 cars catching fire. Germany’s driest November since record-keeping began in 1881. In the United States, worst...