By Michael Taylor
KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The environment has emerged as a major issue for many Australian voters ahead of a May 18 election, with climate change opening up a divide between the major parties during campaigning.
According to a poll by the Ipsos Issues Monitor, 23% of respondents cited the environment as one of their biggest concerns, making it the fourth top issue.
Here are five of Australia's top environmental risks:
1. HEALTH IMPACTS OF EXTREME WEATHER
A record-breaking heatwave triggered power outages in January as demand for air-conditioning soared. The scorching temperatures also suspended play at the Australian Open tennis grand slam in Melbourne.
2. DESTRUCTION OF NATURAL HERITAGE
A spike in sea temperatures has caused major coral bleaching on the world-heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. Coral cover on the world's largest reef could fall to 5% in the next decade, research shows.
3. NEW COAL EMISSIONS
Plans for a $4 billion coal mine, owned by India's Adani Enterprises, have divided the country. A court blocked plans to build a mine in Hunter Valley over its potentially "dire" environmental impact.
4. AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
Record-low rainfall in some regions and successive seasons of above-average temperatures have blighted vast tracts of Australia's grazing and crop land and hit agricultural production.
5. MISSING CLIMATE TARGETS?
Governments have cut support for renewables and funding to climate science bodies. Last year, the government scrapped plans for a national energy policy that aimed to cut carbon emissions amid opposition from coal supporters.
Sources: Climate Council of Australia, Baker & McKenzie, Reuters (Reporting by Michael Taylor @MickSTaylor; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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