Summary of the independent report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, December 2006
This summary presents the key findings made by the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, achievements over the reporting period, issues which will take some time to resolve, and suggestions to the Australian Government and people for improving Australia's environment.
There is much to be proud of in Australia's environmental performance, but there remain several environmental issues of concern.
It is still not possible to give a comprehensive national picture of the state of Australia's environment because of the lack of accurate, nationally consistent environmental data. Therefore, the need for an enduring environmental data system remains a high priority if Australia is to measure progress and make sound investments in the country's environmental assets.
Available data for SoE 2006
Many of the pressures from human activity, such as increasing consumption, that were reported in the 2001 State of the Environment Report still exist, and some have intensified.
Energy use per capita, 1997-98 to 2003-04
Australia's climate has always been extremely variable. In the last 200 years we have not seen the full range of extremes. There are consequences of this variability that need acknowledging. Foremost amongst these is that we have to learn to live in Australia's environment. For example, the recent drought was hotter than previous droughts, has affected almost the entire continent and could continue. Our cities, lands, biodiversity and irrigation-based industries have been shown to be vulnerable to this climate variability.
Australia's variable rainfall 1950-51
Australia's variable rainfall 1960-61
Climate change is an important issue for Australia. While there is debate about scientific predictions, it is almost universally accepted that temperatures are rising. The consequential overall changes in Australian climate variability cannot be accurately predicted. In the face of uncertainty, continuous adaptation of environmental and sectoral policies is the key. This will require adapting for conditions outside of people's experiences and encouraging better management on a national and international scale in order to secure Australia's environmental future.
Trend in mean temperature, 1910-2005 (ºC/10yrs)