Fri, 14 Apr 2023 - 14:03

Australia’s Environment

Australians are intensely proud of the extraordinary continent we live in.

Many of our animals, plants, reptiles and insects are unique to Australia.

The land, the rivers, the mountains and the deserts all have a distinctive and specifically Australian beauty.

But sometimes it seems we only ever hear bad news about our natural environment in Australia.

Which is why I was interested to read the 2022 Report on Australia’s Environment, prepared by the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network and the Australian National University.

Each year this report gives an Environmental Condition Score.  For 2022 it stood at 8.7 points out of 10, the highest since 2011.

It found that in 2022, compared to the average between 2001 and 2021, rainfall was 34 per cent higher, the number of days over 35 degrees Celsius was 6 per cent lower, plant growth was 28 per cent higher and biomass burnt was 49 per cent lower.

Of course not everything was positive, with the report for example citing a decline in the abundance of threatened species.  Even here though there were some bright spots: the abundance of large mammals has increased by 105 per cent since 2000, led by a significant recovery of humpback and southern right whales.

In several areas the report highlighted positive developments.

For example, it noted that atmospheric CO2 concentration, while increasing in 2022, did so with an 11 per cent lower growth rate than the previous year, ‘partly due to slowly falling global emissions.’  Emissions per person in Australia in 2022 were 23 per cent lower than the peak (which was in 2000-2005.)

The report observed that the Great Barrier Reef ‘showed widespread recovery’ from recent coral bleaching, with coral cover continuing to increase in the northern and central parts of the reef.

Rainfall was the highest in a decade, river flows were the highest since 2011, soil moisture improved across most of Australia and tree cover was 13 per cent higher than the average of the 2000-2021 period.

Our environment is precious to all Australians and we must recognise the threats it faces.

That is why it is so important to carefully measure environmental indicators – as this report does.

Of course there is more work to do.  But the indicators in this report, based on careful scientific measurement, should give us some encouragement about the condition of Australia’s environment.