Environmental Issues in Australia

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Environmental Issues: soil erosion from overgrazing, deforestation, industrial development, urbanization, and poor farming practices; limited natural freshwater resources; soil salinity rising due to the use of poor quality water; drought, desertification; clearing for agricultural purposes threatens the natural habitat of many unique animal and plant species; disruption of the fragile ecosystem has resulted in significant floral extinctions; the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast, the largest coral reef in the world, is threatened by increased shipping and its popularity as a tourist site; overfishing, pollution, and invasive species are also problems. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

International Environmental Agreements: party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

Land Use in Australia

Land Use: agricultural land: 46.65 percent (2018 estimate). Arable Land: 4.03 percent (2018 estimate); permanent crops: 0.04 percent (2018 estimate); permanent pasture: 42.58 percent (2018 estimate); forest: 17.42 percent (2018 estimate); other: 33.42 percent (2018 estimate). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Urbanization: urban population: 86.6 percent of total population (2023); rate of urbanization: 1.27 percent annual rate of change (2020-25 estimate). note: data include Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, and Norfolk Island.

Revenue from Forest Resources: 0.13 percent of GDP (2018 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 105.

Pollution, Emissions and Recycling in Australia

Air Pollution: particulate matter emissions: 7.19 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 estimate); carbon dioxide emissions: 375.91 megatons (2016 estimate); methane emissions: 105.01 megatons (2020 estimate). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Carbon Dioxide Emissions: 417.87 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 estimate)
from coal and metallurgical coke: 162.26 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 estimate)
from petroleum and other liquids: 158.668 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 estimate)
from consumed natural gas: 96.942 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: emissions 15.

Recycling and Waste: municipal solid waste generated annually: 13.345 million tons (2015 estimate)
municipal solid waste recycled annually: 5,618,245 tons (2015 estimate)
percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 42.1 percent (2015 estimate)

Water Sources in Australia

Total Water Withdrawal: municipal: 2.29 billion cubic meters (2020 estimate); industrial: 2.89 billion cubic meters (2020 estimate); agricultural: 8.57 billion cubic meters (2020 estimate); Total Renewable Water Resources: 492 billion cubic meters (2020 estimate). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Major Watersheds (area square kilometers): Indian Ocean drainage: (Great Australian Bight) Murray-Darling (1,050,116 square kilometers); Internal (endorheic basin) drainage: Lake Eyre (1,212,198 square kilometers); Major Aquifers: Great Artesian Basin, Canning Basin

Major Lakes (area square kilometers): fresh water lake(s): Lake Alexandrina: 570 square kilometers; salt water lake(s): Lake Eyre: 9,690 square kilometers; Lake Torrens (ephemeral): 5,780 square kilometers; Lake Gairdner: 4,470 square kilometers; Lake Mackay (ephemeral): 3,494 square kilometers; Lake Frome: 2,410 square kilometers; Lake Amadeus (ephemeral): 1,032 square kilometers.

Major Rivers (by length in kilometers): River Murray: 2,508 kilometers; Darling River: 1,545 kilometers; Murrumbidgee River: 1,485 kilometers; Lachlan River: 1,339 kilometers; Cooper Creek: 1,113 kilometers; Flinders River: 1,004 kilometers.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: CIA World Factbook, 2023; “Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Volume 2: Oceania,” edited by Terence E. Hays, 1991, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated August 2023

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