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Asia Minute: Report fires a warning shot on Australia’s environment

Australia Climate change wildfire
Rick Rycroft/AP
FILE - In this Feb 1, 2020, file photo, a fire burns in the grass near Bumbalong, south of the Australian capital, Canberra. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Every five years, Australia’s government takes a detailed look at its environment. The latest report has just been released — and the news is not good.

Australia’s environment is in a “poor and deteriorating state.” That’s the view of a report covering topics from the increasing impact of climate change, mining and pollution to the state of habitat loss and the presence of invasive species.

The report was put together by a team of scientists and led by Emma Johnston, deputy vice-chancellor for research at the University of Sydney.

She said the biggest change from the previous report is that up to now, the impact of climate change was put in the future tense.

Now, she says researchers are “documenting widespread impacts of climate change.”

Other findings include a decline in plant and animal species.

Non-native plant species now outnumber native ones in Australia, the country has lost more mammal species than any other continent, and the overall number of species considered “threatened” increased by 8% in the last five years.

This report was completed last December, but the former environment minister did not release it to the public until after the election — which the ruling coalition lost.

Surveys found environmental issues were a factor for many voters.

The report does say the declines can be addressed — adding that “immediate action with innovative management and collaboration can turn things around.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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