The Australian state’s environmental report sounds climate crisis alert

The Australian state’s environmental report sounds climate crisis alert


SYDNEY – Australia’s unique wildlife is increasingly threatened by forest fires, droughts and climate change, according to a long-awaited expert report described as “shocking” by the country’s new environment minister.

The world’s driest inhabited continent has already lost more mammal species than any other continent in the last 200 years about when mass industrialization took off and continues to have one of the highest species declines among developed countries, says a report on the state of the environment published on Tuesday.

“Although it is a confrontational reading, Australians deserve the truth,” said Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek. “We deserve to know that endangered communities have grown by 20 percent over the last five years with places that have literally been threatened by catastrophic fires.”

The government-commissioned review of a Independent panel of researchers was completed last year, but held back from publishing the conservative previous government, the coalition – which lost power after the May election in part because it had resisted tougher cuts in carbon emissions.

Australia was one of the last developed nations to commit to zero-zero emissions by 2050. (Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “I do not hold a snake, buddy,” when asked about his decision to go on vacation in Hawaii during destructive forest fires in 2019.)

Australia, a climate lag, is leaning towards the 2050 target with a net zero as elections approach

The growing frequency and severity of natural disasters has pushed Australia’s concerns about climate change to a record high, according to opinion polls.

Researchers have warned that devastating forest fires that Australia experienced in 2019-2020, which killed 34 people and destroyed thousands of homes, could become regular occurrences. It is estimated that 1 to 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by the fires.

In February, one of Australia’s most iconic animals, the koala, was officially moved from endangered to endangered status along the country’s east coast.

The country has also been hit by a series of severe floods in recent months, which has raised questions about how to prepare Australians to live in places where “once a century” floods are becoming more common.

Tuesday’s report found that at least 19 Australian ecosystems are showing signs of collapse or near collapse. For the first time, Australia now has more foreign plant species than native ones, Plibersek said. Meanwhile, marine heat waves have caused mass coral bleaching in the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

As a historic and deadly heat wave sweeps Western Europe, the report contained a prominent warning for Australia’s cities, many of which are growing faster than metropolitan areas in other rich countries. This growth has led to increased urban heat, waste and pollution and pushed ever scarcer resources such as water and energy, the report’s authors said.

These maps show how extremely hot it is in Europe and the United States

Sydney, the commercial capital, has lost more than 70 percent of its original vegetation cover through development, experts wrote.

Urbanization is likely to lead to increased deaths, poorer sleep patterns and productivity, they said.

Between 2000 and 2017, Australia cleared more than 19 million acres of endangered species’ habitats across the country – much of it in small steps that meant no assessment under environmental laws, according to Plibersek.

“After a lost decade, after a decade of going backwards, we can not waste another minute,” said the Minister of the Environment.

The Greens and other legislators on whom the government depends in the Senate are pushing the Labor government in the center and left to guarantee that a draft bill aims at a 43 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 is only one floor.

The Greens want a more ambitious cut of 75 percent, but have signaled a willingness to support the legislation if the goal is set as a minimum with obligations that can not be easily settled by future governments. Independent legislators are also calling for a mechanism to increase targets over time as an “insurance policy” against future administrations.

Plibersek said on Tuesday that “too many urgent warnings were either ignored or kept secret” by the previous administration.

Jonathon Duniam, a lawmaker who speaks for the opposition coalition on the environment, denied that the previous government had failed to act on the climate and challenged Plibersek to “get on with his job … instead of participating in biased finger-pointing and gambling.”

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