Some recovery for ecosystems, including the Great Barrier Reef, in 2021

Recent heavy rains across New South Wales and Queensland have replenished water catchments and dams that were already full, causing flooding and dramatic damage, he said.

Despite signs of recovery, the country’s biodiversity deteriorated further last year, with 12 species declared extinct and 34 others added to the endangered species list.

“The two most recent extinctions were a little bat and a skink last seen on Christmas Island in 2009 and 2010,” said co-author Shoshana Rapley.

“There was supposed to be a plan to protect these species. It is a wake-up call that the conservation of endangered species needs to be taken more seriously.

Despite the loss, scientists discovered 16 new species, including spiders, frogs and an octopus.

“Of course, we’ve always had these species without realizing it, so that doesn’t mean biodiversity is improving,” she said.

The Great Barrier Reef has experienced a “rapid but fragile” recovery from coral bleaching events in three of the previous five years, aided by cooler weather.

Carbon emissions fell almost 2% last year, but mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia contributed 1.4% to global emissions in 2021, up from 1.5% the previous year.

Despite this, emissions per person remain among the highest in the world due to high individual energy consumption, continued use of polluting coal and large carbon dioxide emissions, Professor van Dijk said.

While last year was the sixth warmest on record, the number of days above 35 degrees fell to the lowest since 2011, a sign of generally lower temperatures.

“Not a lot [temperature] records have been broken and that’s good to see for a change,” he said.

Professor van Dijk warned that the continued effects of climate change, including heat waves, drought and bushfires, will further degrade the environment and ecosystems for decades to come.

“Decisive action to actively reduce global carbon emissions and improve ecosystem management can prevent these impacts from getting worse than they need to be,” he said.

“Both are entirely within our reach, but only if the necessary steps are taken.”