Global warming: shocking report lists Australian wildlife devastation

This file photo taken on November 2, 2019 shows a dehydrated and injured koala receiving treatment at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, after being rescued from a bushfire. Australia’s unique wildlife is in retreat as it reels from bushfires, drought, human activity and global warming, according to a ‘shocking’ government report from July 19, 2022 which has sparked calls for radical change. Image: Said Khan / AFP

AAustralia’s unique wildlife is being devastated by bushfires, drought, habitat loss and global warming, a government report said on Tuesday, warning that more and more species are at risk of extinction .

The five-year report on the state of the environment has sparked calls for dramatic action to reverse the “bad and deteriorating” state of flora and fauna described by scientists on land and at sea.

The damage is being accelerated by a climate that has warmed Australia’s average land temperature by 1.4 degrees Celsius since the start of the 20th century, the report said.

A failure to manage the pressures “will continue to drive species extinctions”, the scientists warned in the report.

Australian Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said it was a “shocking document”.

“If we continue on the trajectory we’re on now, we’ll see more endangered species, we’ll see drier rivers, we’ll see degraded landscapes, we’ll see dying reefs,” she told reporters.

“The path we are on is not sustainable.”

Plibersek, a member of the centre-left Labor Party that came to power in May’s election, criticized the previous Conservative government for not publishing the report, which it received in December 2021.

She has promised to carve out more of Australia’s land and oceans for protection, pursue “fundamental reform” of environmental laws and empower a new environmental protection agency.

“Ecological bomb”

The 2019-2020 “Black Summer” bushfires in Australia burned more than eight million hectares of native vegetation and killed or displaced 1 to 3 billion animals, according to the report.

The fires were an “ecological bomb ripping through southeastern Australia”, Plibersek said.

Marine heatwaves caused massive coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016, 2017 and 2020, scientists said in the report. Since then, a government report released in March found the reef had once again suffered massive bleaching.

Millions of hectares of primary forest have been cleared since 1990, the report says.

More than seven million hectares of endangered species habitats were cleared between 2000 and 2017 without being assessed under Australia’s environmental conservation laws, he found.

In five years, more than 200 plant and animal species of national significance have been added to the endangered species list under Australian environmental laws.

“Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent,” the report says, with the number of new species listed as more threatened rising by 8% in five years.


Australian cities are also growing at a rapid rate, scientists have found, increasing urban heat, pollution and waste while stretching water and energy resources.

“Sydney has lost over 70% of native vegetation cover to development,” the report said.

Sydney Harbor’s storm drains have also created pollution hotspots with concentrations 20 times higher than when the harbor was pristine.

“The findings of this report are heartbreaking and the leadership failures that have led to losses on this scale are devastating,” said Rachel Lowry, Acting Chief Executive of WWF-Australia.

“If we ignore the warnings in this report, iconic species like koalas in eastern Australia, or our largest gliding mammal, the greatest glider, will disappear forever under our watch.”

WWF-Australia said the report should be a “turning point” that would lead to greater investment and tougher laws to protect Australia’s wildlife and wilderness.

Lowry urged the new government to act quickly, condemning existing environmental legislation for “failing miserably” to protect endangered species.

The “devastating” new report showed that coastlines and marine environments were deteriorating, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said.

“We need to do more now, or we will jeopardize everything we depend on our oceans for…our health, wellbeing, livelihoods and culture,” said the company’s chief executive, Darren Kindleysides.

© Agence France-Presse

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Teresa H. Sadler