Why carbon is not the only major current environmental issue in Australia

The year 2020 has been dominated by COVID-19 and for many, the issues surrounding climate change and transitioning to renewable energy were put on the backburner.

But that was all flipped on its head when iconic documentary-maker David Attenborough released A Life on Our Planet, which outlined why immediate action is required.

Reducing carbon emissions and moving away from fossil fuels are the primary goals being flagged around the world, but there are numerous environmental concerns flagged in A Life on Our Planet and that need to be considered, including here in Australia.

Environmental challenges we need to address

Here are the major environmental issues our country need to worry about outside of carbon emissions and renewable energy:

 

Deforestation

The bottom line is we are cutting trees down at a much more rapid rate than we are planting them. As late as 2019 1.66Mha of tree cover was lost and there has been a 14 per cent decline in trees in Australia from 2000 to 2019. That is before we even look at the devastating bushfires of 2019-20 which wiped out another 18.6 million hectares.

 

Agriculture clearing and overgrazing

Since European settlement, around 13 per cent of all vegetation has been lost and this is only increasing as agricultural activities ramp up to feed a rising population around the world. Australia is placed in the top 10 land clearing nations in the world for agricultural purposes.

 

Overfishing and illegal fishing

Policing our borders for illegal fishing vessels is very difficult due to the size and geography of Australia. But it is not just overseas fishing boats depleting our stock, with government figures showing that 17.5 per cent of our stocks are overfished and the status of a further 16.5 per cent is not known.

 

Introduction of pests

Invasive species are an ongoing problem for Australia, from the spread of the cane toad from Queensland to other states to domestic feral animals and including new introduced exotic species and diseases which decimate our crops and wildlife stocks every year.

 

Pollution

Did you know that 5000 Australians die from exposure to air pollution every year? Over 30 per cent of our agricultural land is considered degraded by the impacts of pollution and we are seeing more and more of it because of natural events like bushfires and rising commercial operations that are contributing towards our negative air quality.

 

Infrastructure development

As we continue to grow as a nation, our infrastructure projects rise as well which results in more land clearing, more native animals and species lost, more emissions and pollution and more impact on our environment. While measures are being put in place to use more recycled materials, manage our land better and reduce emissions, the tides of progress remain a large burden on our environment.

So while COVID-19 has been a major issue, it is important to remember the ongoing environmental problems facing Australia so that we can take action and improve the world around us for generations to come.