Environmental issues in Australia


Environmental issues in Australia

As with other countries there are a number of environmental issues in Australia.

Issues

Key conservation issues include the protection of Australian habitat from invasive species, soil salinity and the effects of mining and land clearing on the environment. The protection of wetlands and other unique habitats is becoming increasingly important to Australia. Other major environmental issues in Australia include the preservation of biodiversity especially in rainforests, and the protection of the Great Barrier Reef from environmental threats.

The culling of wild horses and kangaroos are two of the more controversial environmental issues in Australia. Recognising the problem and dealing with climate change in Australia while formulating an appropriate energy policy have been key environmental issues for the current Australian Government.Fact|date=April 2008 The protection of waterways in Murray-Darling Basin and more generally the sustainability of irrigation in Australia are also major issues.

Climate change

Climate change has become a major issue in Australia in recent years. Much of the country's population appears to be losing its traditional water sources due to persistent drought even as most of the outback receives large increases in rainfall. At the same time, Australia continues to have the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions and academic studies have clearly shown the influence of fossil fuel and light metal (aluminium and titanium) industry lobby groups on the country's political system to be both strongly established and highly extensive.

All federal and state governments have explicitly recognised that climate change is being caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Sectors of the population are actively campaigning against new coal mines and coal fired power stations because of their concern about the effects of global warming on Australia. Other sectors of the population, however, believe it is still too early to tell whether or not there has actually been human induced climate change and believe the natural variability of Australia's climate too high for panic. After publication of the Garnaut draft report and the Green Paper on the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme members of this group are increasingly viewed as "climate sceptics".

There is expected to be a net benefit to Australia of stabilising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450ppm CO2 eq [ cite web | url= http://www.garnautreview.org.au/CA25734E0016A131/WebObj/GarnautClimateChangeReviewInterimReport-Feb08/$File/Garnaut%20Climate%20Change%20Review%20Interim%20Report%20-%20Feb%2008.pdf | format=PDF | title= Garnaut Climate Change Review Interim Report to the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments of Australia | work= | accessdate=2008-04-27 | date=February 2007 | publisher=Garnaut Climate Change Review | last= | first= | coauthors= | pages=63pp | quote=These glimpses suggest that it is in Australia’s interest to seek the strongest feasible global mitigation outcomes – 450 ppm as currently recommended by the science advisers to the UNFCCC and accepted by the European Union. ] although vested interests such as the coal industry argue this proposition.

Conservation

Conservation in Australia is an issue of state and federal policy. Australia is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, with a large portion of species endemic to Australia. Preserving this wealth of biodiversity is important for future generations.

A key conservation issue is the preservation of biodiversity, especially by protecting the remaining rainforests. The destruction of habitat by human activities, including land clearing, remains the major cause of biodiversity loss in Australia. The importance of the Australian rainforests to the conservation movement is very high. Australia is the only western country to have large areas of rainforest intact. Forests provide timber, drugs, and food and should be managed to maximize the possible uses. Currently, there are a number of environmental movements and campaigners advocating for action on saving the environment, one such campaign is the Big Switch.

Land management issues including clearance of native vegetation, reafforestation of once-cleared areas, control of exotic weeds and pests, expansion of dryland salinity, and changed fire regimes. Intensification of resource use in sectors such as forestry, fisheries, and agriculture are widely reported to contribute to biodiversity loss in Australia. Coastal and marine environments also have reduced biodiversity from reduced water quality caused by pollution and sediments arising from human settlements and agriculture. In central New South Wales where there are large plains of grassland, problems have risen from—unusual to say—lack of land clearing.

The Daintree Rainforest, a tropical rainforest near Daintree, Queensland covering around 1200 square kilometers, is threatened by logging, development, mining and the effects of the high tourist numbers.

Invasive species

Australia's geographical isolation has resulted in the evolution of many delicate ecological relationships that are sensitive to foreign invaders and in many instances provided no natural predators for many of the species subsequently introduced. Introduced plants that have caused widepread problems are lantana and the prickly pear bush. The introduction and spread of animals such as the cane toad or rabbit can disrupt the existing balances between populations and develop into environmental problems. The introduction of cattle into Australia and to a lesser extant the dingo, are other examples of species that have changed the landscape. In some cases the introduction of new species can lead to plagues and the extinction of endeminic species.

Fauna

Land clearing

In the prehistory of Australia the indigenous Australians used fire to clear land for the hunting of game and encouraging new growth. With colonisation the majority of cleared land in Australia has been developed for cattle, cotton and wheat production. The extinction of 20 different mammal, 9 bird and 97 plant species have been partially attributed to land clearing. Land clearing is a major source of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and contributed to approximately 12 percent of Australia’s total emissions in 1998.

Consequences of land clearing is dryland salinity and soil erosion. Since European settlement a total of 13% of native vegetation cover has been lost.

Logging

Clearcutting of old growth forests is continuing in parts of Australia.

Marine conservation

One of the natable issues with marine conservation in Australis is the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef's environmental pressures include water quality from runoff, climate change and mass coral bleaching, cyclic outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish, overfishing, and shipping accidents.

Energy

Australia is a major exporter and user of coal, the burning of which creates CO2. Consequently, in 2000 Australia was the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the developed world irrespective of whether or not emissions from land clearing were included. [List of countries by greenhouse gas emissions per capita] It is also one of the countries most at risk from climate change according to the Stern report.

oil salinity

Soil salinity affects 50,000 km² of Australia and is predominantly due to land clearance.

Uranium

Australia has the largest reserves of uranium in the world and there has been a number of enquiries on uranium mining. The anti-nuclear movement in Australia is actively opposing mining as well as preventing the construction of nuclear power plants.

Whaling

Whaling in Australia took place from colonisation in 1788. In 1979 Australia terminated whaling and committed to whale protection. The main varieties hunted were Humpback, Blue, Right and Sperm Whales.cite journal | last = Suter | first = Keith D. | year = 1982 | month = October | title = Australia's new whaling policy : Formulation and implementation | journal = Marine Policy | volume = 6 | issue = 4 | pages = 287–302 | doi = 10.1016/0308-597X(82)90004-5]

Environmental movement

ee also

*List of environmental issues

References

External links

* [http://www.envirotalk.com.au/ Envirotalk] - Australia's largest environmental discussion forum]

[Category:Environmental issues in Australia| ]


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