Meanwhile, in other news from the Southern Hemisphere, a committee composed of more than 100 representatives from Australia’s government agencies and the private sector has issued the country a damning environmental report card. The committee, which reports on the state of the Australian environment every five years, said there had been little progress since its last publication. Although the nation’s biodiversity was better protected and the air in urban areas was cleaner, those gains were offset by damage to coral reefs, vegetation loss, a nearly 17 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 1998, and worsening salinity in the Murray-Darling Basin, a key agricultural area in the nation. Australia has come under fire from international environmental groups recently for refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.