Amid a deluge of worrying climate and environment news pouring in from around the world each day, it can be hard to decipher exactly what’s going on. Is it raining too much, or not enough? Is this year worse than last year? And what does it all mean for Australia?

An environmental scorecard released today helps shed a bit of light.The annual assessment involves trawling through huge volumes of data collected by satellites, measurement stations and surveys.

And the result? In 2023, Australia’s “Environmental Condition Score” was 7.5 out of 10 (with 10 being the best possible score). That was lower than the previous year, but still the second-highest score since 2011.

As the authors write, the year was one of opposites. It started wet but turned dry and warm. This led to an early start to the east coast fire season – but fortunately, fears of a monster fire season were not realised. And 2023 may have been the world’s hottest year, but it wasn’t Australia’s hottest.

Sadly, the results show an unrelenting decline in the abundance of Australia’s threatened bird, mammal and plant species each year. And in more bad news, our greenhouse gas emissions keep rising. The upshot? Australia’s environment is struggling on several fronts, and all of us – individuals, industry and governments – must do better.

Nicole Hasham

Energy + Environment Editor

On a climate rollercoaster: how Australia’s environment fared in the world’s hottest year

Albert Van Dijk, Australian National University; Shoshana Rapley, Australian National University; Tayla Lawrie, The University of Queensland

Conditions deteriorated in 2023 but were stlil relatively good for ecosystems and agriculture. Unfortunately, the alarming decline of threatened species continued.

The West can’t ‘solve’ its Russia problem. Here’s how it should handle 6 more years of Vladimir Putin

Peter Tesch, Australian National University

Western governments must honestly assess the mistaken assumptions that have undermined effective policies in the past and articulate what a better future would look like for the Russian people.

Will the AUKUS deal survive in the event of a Trump presidency? All signs point to yes

John Blaxland, Australian National University

Amid reports of a dip in US production of nuclear submarines and concerns about the future of the agreement under Donald Trump, some have questioned the viability of AUKUS. But they need not worry.

What’s the best way to ease rents and improve housing affordability? We modelled 4 of the government’s biggest programs

Jason Nassios, Victoria University; James Giesecke, Victoria University; Xianglong Locky Liu, Victoria University

For the Commonwealth, the best measure is rent assistance. For the states, it’s a mix of two-thirds first homebuyer grants and one-third stamp duty discounts.

Who will look after us in our final years? A pay rise alone won’t solve aged-care workforce shortages

Stephen Duckett, The University of Melbourne

While wage rises for aged care workers are welcome, this measure alone will not fix all workforce problems in the sector.

Do you have 7,513 unread emails in your inbox? Research suggests that’s unwise

Matt Balogh, University of New England

Managing our electronic records is a big task. But using a few simple tips to turn your inbox into a to-do list can save a lot of problems down the line.

Political donations rules are finally in the spotlight – here’s what the government should do

Kate Griffiths, Grattan Institute

There are simple (and some not-so-simple) measures that would make donations more transparent and fairer.

Study links microplastics with human health problems – but there’s still a lot we don’t know

Mark Patrick Taylor, Macquarie University; Scott P. Wilson, Macquarie University

Microplastics are created when everyday products – including clothes, food and beverage packaging, home furnishings, plastic bags, toys and toiletries – degrade.

‘I wanted to stop … but I also wanted to pull’. 1 in 50 people have trichotillomania – a new memoir unpacks compulsive hair-pulling

Jane Turner Goldsmith, University of Adelaide

Adele Dumont’s affecting memoir, The Pulling, draws the reader into the secrecy, shame and impulses behind trichotilllomania, or compulsive hair-pulling.

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