Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday 27 December 2010
Goodbye to a year of natural calamities
The year 2010 saw many natural calamities and
extreme weather events, while the global economy was shaken by the debt-crisis
2010 was a year of natural calamities, when Nature showed its power and humanity across the world had to cope with the consequences.
The year started with the 12 January earthquake
Earthquakes also struck in many other areas, including
There was also extensive flooding. The most devastating
There were other weather extremes, with a big heat-wave in Russia (killing 15,000) and forest fires, and the heavy snow in Europe and blizzards in the American East Coast as the year ended, disrupting plane flights,
The most notable man-made environmental disaster
this year was the spilling of 172 million gallons of oil by a BP offshore
rig into the
Worldwide economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters were US$222 billion in 2010, more than triple the $63 billion in 2009, according to SwissRe, the reinsurance firm. Altogether 260,000 people died, the highest since 1976.
According to scientists, climate change made worse the extreme weather events. The severity of the calamities is Nature's way of warning humanity that worse is to come unless it changes its way of life and production.
2010 is predicted to be among the one or two warmest
year in the world since records were kept. “The extremes are changed
in an extreme fashion,” said Greg Holland of the National Centre for
“The science is clear we can expect more of these kinds of damaging events unless society's emissions of heat-trapping gases are sharply reduced,” according to John Holden, the White House's science advisor. Both were quoted in an Associated Press article “2010's World Gone Wild.”
The turbulence in the Earth's climate was reflected
in the roller-coaster climate talks during 2010, which tried to recover
from the disaster of the
Developed countries succeeded in having their
way at the
Also turbulent were the developments in the world
economy. The recovery that looked promising in 2009 became uneven in
2010. Most shocking was the sovereign debt crisis that engulfed
The rapid switch in many European countries from
fiscal stimulus to extreme austerity policies also began to dampen the
prospects of global recovery. In the
The Federal Reserve is resorting to pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the banks. But critics predict most of this will be transferred through investors to abroad, rather than loans to the productive sectors.
In contrast to these problems in the West, the
engines of growth continued to work quite well in the developing countries,
Their challenge is to avoid inflation and new speculative bubbles resulting from large capital inflows, and to maintain growth even as Western demand for their exports slows.
During the year, many analysts raised the issue
(or for some, the concern) that the centre of gravity of the world economy
and eventually politics was shifting perceptibly from the West towards
emerging developing countries, particularly
Hundreds of billions of dollars more were spent
in 2010 to rescue fallen banks, companies and countries, especially
The profits of the banks are soaring, and bankers are fighting to restore their year-end bonuses, causing a skeptical public to wonder how quickly the situation has gone back to “business as usual”, and whether the correct lessons have been learnt from the financial crisis.