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  • How Is an Environmental Condition Score Calculated?

How Is an Environmental Condition Score Calculated?

Apr 22 2020 Read 894 Times

As one of the most developed countries on the planet, Australia certainly has the technology to lead the fight against global warming. Despite this, this sprawling island nation remains one of the worst affected by climate issues, with last year’s unprecedented forest fires testament to the colossal damage that environmental negligence can wreak on a nation’s people and land.

In order to try and quantify the size of the task ahead of them, the Australian government commission an environmental scorecard each year, which examines seven different factors to arrive at a “score” for the nation. The most recent report, released last month, makes for grim reading; in 2019, Australia was awarded an overall Environmental Condition Score (ECS) of just 0.8 out of 10.

Bottom of the class

The ECS is calculated by taking into account seven distinct factors. These consist of growth conditions, high temperatures, river flows, soil health, tree cover, vegetation conditions and wetlands. 2019 was a particularly bad year for Australia in terms of droughts and forest fires, which goes some way to explaining the awful results produced by the report.

As a whole, the country’s ECS fell by 2.3 points to 0.8, which is the lowest score in 20 years. Each of the country’s seven states saw a decline in their ECS, with Western Australia recording the largest drop-off of 5.7 points from last year, leading to this year’s score of 0.4. However, other areas returned even poorer ECSs, with Northern Territory (0.2) and New South Wales (0.3) both performing even more dismally.

Meteorological extremes

Australia has often been criticised for its continued reliance on coal, which is known to be perhaps the most damaging form of energy generation and has even been linked to extreme rainfall events by certain studies. However, Australia suffered from the opposite problem last year, with a huge dearth in rainfall across the country. The average amount of precipitation across the whole of 2019 was just 229mm, which is the lowest amount in well over a century.

Meanwhile, 2019 was also one of the hottest years on record, with the average number of days in which the mercury in the thermometer exceeded 35°C up by over a third (36%) compared to the previous 19 years on record. The combined effect of this drought, extreme heat and wind erosion meant that soil conditions and river flows fell to historic lows, while several dust storms exacerbated the situation further.

Forest infernos

Perhaps the most notable events in 2019 were the unprecedented forest fires which decimated the country’s woodlands. More than 30 people were killed and over 3,000 homes were destroyed by the fires, which had an even more profound impact on wildlife. Almost 200 species of plants and animals saw over a third of their living habitats destroyed by the fires, resulting in well over 40 of them being added to the endangered list.

While protecting against such natural disasters is a tall order for any nation, more must be done to ensure that smoke, air quality and health communities are better informed with regard to air quality, allowing them to take action in advance of predicted fires and after the fact, as well. In this way, the worst extremes of these catastrophes can be mitigated as much as possible.

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