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Rating environmental impact studies.

Many governments withhold their approval of projects, funding or regulatory permits for activities that might adversely affect the environment, until they have formally obtained and reviewed an assessment that predicts the new project or activity threatens little environmental harm. However, few attempts have been made to audit the reliability of forecasts contained in these environmental assessments. In fact, Ralf C. Buckley says his new analysis of Australia's track record with environmental assessments represents "the first national-scale audit for any country." And in the recently released May AMBIO, he concludes that "in Australia at least...improvement is clearly needed."

Buckley, director of the Center for Environmental Management at Bond University in Brisbane, reports that adequate monitoring data exist to test the predictions contained in only about 3 percent of the roughly 1,000 Australian environmental impact statements generated to date. He analyzed the approximately 200 major and 175 subsidiary predictions and focused on those 68 that proved the most pivotal. Forecasts in this small but important subset proved "less than 50 percent accurate on average and [occasionally missed the mark by] over two orders of magnitude," he says.

Primary predictions such as those describing anticipated air or water emissions proved more accurate (52 percent) than secondary predictions such as those forecasting air or water quality (39 percent). Only 33 percent of the analyzed predictions proved more severe than actual impacts; 53 percent proved less severe.
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Title Annotation:evaluation of Australia's environmental assessments
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 27, 1991
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