Environment Opinion

Scientists warn logging will lead to extinction

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Warnings of devastating biodiversity loss are falling on deaf ears as logging continues in Australia (Screenshot via YouTube)

Despite warnings from scientists, NSW and Tasmania continue catastrophic deforestation that is not only critically harming wildlife but also humans, writes Sue Arnold.

HUMAN SURVIVAL relies on healthy forests. This is an indisputable fact ignored by current NSW and federal Labor governments, with the exception of the Liberal Government in Tasmania. In NSW and Tasmania, native forests are being industrially logged, increasing localised extinctions as habitat disappears, threatening the potential destruction of our life support systems.

Federally, the environmental policies of the Albanese Government could best be described as smoke and mirrors with zero protection for native forests.

According to The Guardian, covering a World Wildlife Fund report on deforestation, Australia is the only developed nation on the world list of deforestation hotspots.  

A group of 14 scientists from six Australian universities have published a report indicating logging is ‘locking in species extinction’.

The report indicates more than half of NSW forests and woodlands that existed before the European invasion are gone, with more than a third of the remaining forests degraded.

Scientists said NSW was:

‘...“locking in extinction through legislative inadequacies” because regional forestry agreements were allowing critical habitat to be logged while being exempt from federal environmental protection law [Environment Protection and Conservation Act 1999].’

Global Forest Watch estimates NSW and Western Australia were responsible for 59% of all tree cover loss between 2001 and 2022. NSW had the most tree cover loss at 3.01megahectares compared to an average of 983 kilohectares. WA stopped logging in 2023.

A report by the NSW Government's Natural Resources Commission (NRC) in 2023 advised the L-NP Government the ‘benefits the state’s forests provide are degrading and will continue to degrade without major intervention’.

Ongoing reductions of streamflow from NSW forests have ‘major implications for future water security in NSW’.

Further, the NRC found forests could become a net carbon emitter in coming decades, undermining key government commitments on net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Recent judgements in the NSW Land and Environment Court and the Federal Court have significant implications for Australia’s remaining native forests. The judgements also provide a glaring example of the lack of any adequate NSW or federal legislation to protect the forests and dependent biodiversity.

In November 2023, the NSW Court rejected a challenge by North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) which focused on the failure of the NSW Forestry Corporation (FCNSW) to protect the state’s endangered species in native forests when approving harvest plans for logging. Koalas and greater gliders, now endangered, are in urgent need of immediate habitat protection and a cessation of logging in their habitats, supported by an exponentially growing number of scientists and conservation organisations.

As a result of the judgement, every single harvest plan approved by the FCNSW that allows logging no longer has to consider the impacts of industrial logging on koalas, greater gliders, and other endangered forest fauna and flora.

The judge reasoned that the approval in 2018 of the Coastal Integrated Forest Operations Approval (CIFOA), which allows forestry operations, provided all the permission needed for any harvest plan approval. This means FCNSW has a green light for the next 20 years and more to approve harvest plans based on the 2018 approval, which comprehensively has failed to provide any legitimate protection for forest species.

No worries about updating the status of forest fauna, no need to consider the impacts of climate change, drought, or the 2019-2020 bushfires. Ecologically sustainable forest management could be satisfied by a 2018 approval.

Too bad for the koalas and gliders.

In the Federal Court, NEFA challenged the 2018 re-approval of the 20-year regional forest agreement between NSW and the Commonwealth.

NEFA’s arguments were based on the Federal Government’s failure to consider and update current scientific research on old-growth forests, forest fauna and flora, and climate change impacts, including bushfires and drought.

The judgement found that no contemporaneous assessment is required before extending the regional forest agreements beyond the originally intended approval 20 years ago.

Justice Melissa Perry laid the responsibility for the protection of native forests on governments:

“The question of whether or not to enter into or vary an intergovernmental agreement of this nature is essentially a political one, the merits of which are matters for the Government parties, not the courts, to determine.”

NSW and Tasmania’s refusal to stop logging in the face of overwhelming evidence of harm and destruction can only be described as catastrophic.

Evidence of civilisation collapse as a result of deforestation isn’t difficult to find.

‘Forests precede civilisations and deserts follow them,’ wrote Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand, former Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France in the 19th Century.

In 2015, Nature published research demonstrating that ‘over 15 billion trees are cut each year and the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilisation’.

According to a Deep Green Resistance article, the study was led by researchers at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with contributions from scientists in Chile, the UK, Finland, Italy, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Brazil and China.

A report subtitled Why Do Forests Matter by EOS Data Analytics makes the legacy of deforestation very clear:

The leading cause of drastic and sometimes irreversible climate change is the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Trees have an exceptional ability to trap and accumulate greenhouse gases, saving the planet from overheating.

 

Every year, approximately 4.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released into the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of deforestation.

 

Deforestation contributes up to 11% of total greenhouse gas emissions yearly — nearly as much as all of the world’s vehicles combined.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates 10 million hectares of forest are cut down each year.

History demonstrates what happens to civilisations when forests are destroyed. In 2018, scientists released a report demonstrating the Ancient Mayan civilisation was wiped out by deforestation. The scientists said that the collapse of Mayan culture has ‘shocking implications for unsustainable logging today’.

Carbon reserves in Central American soils are still affected by trees the Mayans were chopping down more than 1,000 years ago, according to the research.

The ongoing degradation and deforestation of NSW and Tasmania’s native forests are deserving of a royal commission into the reasons for governments’ failures to protect native forests, with compulsory independent environmental education of politicians, bureaucrats and governments.

There really is no excuse for turning a collective political back on an issue that will dictate the quality of life — or the lack thereof in the future.

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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