Approach - Atmosphere 2016


In this report, we assess the state of Australia’s atmosphere through an assessment of Australia’s climate and the effects of climate change, and ambient air quality.

The approach adopted in this report follows that outlined in the Approach report (i.e. the assessment of pressures, state, effectiveness of management, resilience, risk and outlook).

Both climate and air quality are influenced by the emission of pollutants to the atmosphere from anthropogenic (human) activities and natural processes. The state and trends of the climate and air quality result from the response of the atmosphere to the presence of these pollutants.

The pressures that influence climate and air quality, and the trends for parameters reported in the 2011 state of the environment report (SoE 2011; State of the Environment 2011 Committee 2011) are again considered in 2016, and updated with data and information that have become available in the past 5 years. Air quality is quantified using the ‘report card’ methodology presented in SoE 2011.

This theme report discusses the management actions undertaken to reduce emissions and thus mitigate the impacts of these pollutants, as well as the resilience of the climate system and urban airsheds to recover from the disturbances caused by these emissions. The resilience of society to adapt to climate change and impaired air quality, and the risks projected to arise from further change are also presented.

The sections on effectiveness of management examine actions—from global to local—for both climate and air quality. The resilience sections have been updated to include the resilience of physical systems (climate and polluted airsheds) and of society to climate change (via adaptation) and to degraded air quality. The assessment summaries in all sections are based on peer-reviewed assessments and expert opinion.

We have striven, where possible, to make SoE 2016 an update of SoE 2011, so that much of the structure and content are comparable between the 2 reports.

However, a few changes have been made. Stratospheric ozone, which was a component of the air quality section in SoE 2011, is limited to a discussion of stratospheric ozone across Australia, and stratospheric ozone related to the Antarctic ozone hole is discussed in detail in the Antarctic environment report. Similarly, indoor air quality, which was discussed in the ‘Atmosphere’ chapter in SoE 2011, is discussed in the Built environment report in SoE 2016.

Keywood MD, Emmerson KM, Hibberd MF (2016). Atmosphere: Approach. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65c70bc372