State of the environment report, part 1

Photo: bertknot – (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The sobering State of the Environment 2021 report paints a grim picture, reflecting the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report earlier this year. (See Guardian, #1999, “Climate Change Act Now!” and #2000, “Climate Change: Capitalism Killing the Earth”) At the same time there are some positives with swift, planned, and coordinated action is urgently needed.

“The oldest continuing cultures in the world, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, know that ‘if you take care of Country, it will take care of you’. By continuing to work together, we can heal Country and safeguard our future,” the report says. We are not taking care of Country. The message and consequences are stark.

The report is a comprehensive national assessment of the health of every aspect of our environment conducted by more than thirty experts over two years drawing on the best available evidence to guide policy and action.

Australia’s rivers and catchments are mostly in poor condition; water levels in the Murray-Darling Basin were at record lows in 2019 due to extraction and drought. In the past 150 years native fish populations have declined by more than ninety per cent.

There was mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef due to marine heatwaves in 2016, 2017, 2020, and since the report was written, another in March 2022. The coral is increasingly unable to recover in the time between bleachings.

The report warns that ocean acidification due to absorption of carbon dioxide is close to tipping point. Already it is having a disastrous effect on marine ecosystems and species.

Anna Pha, The Guardian, 1 August 2022. Full article.

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