Australia's Bushfires: A Summary
by Fran Haddock
What's Going On Here?
Australia is suffering its worst bushfire season in living memory causing loss of life and devastation to homes, landscapes, and biodiversity.
What Does This Mean?
The size of the bushfires is hard to comprehend, with over 10.7 million hectares of land burnt so far - an area larger than the Amazon and Californian bushfires combined. To date 28 people have been killed, over 2,204 houses have been destroyed and First Nations people have lost sacred ancestral sites. The sheer scale of the devastation has mobilised thousands of volunteer firefighters to join the professionals, 3 of whom have died. The impact on Australia’s unique wildlife is devastating with an estimated half a billion animals killed and many endangered species suspected to be at risk of extinction.
What Is The Link To Climate Change?
There is a bush fire season every year in Australia due to hot, dry summer weather. However, scientists have warned that the season is growing longer and more intense due to climate change – Australia has warmed >1°C since 1910 and rainfall has significantly decreased. This creates dangerous conditions that have precipitated the record-breaking fires we are seeing today. The crisis has indeed coincided with 2019 being Australia’s hottest year on record. Claims that this year’s fires have been worse because of environmental groups limiting prescribed burning in national parks have been rejected by bushfire experts. The role of arson has also reportedly been exaggerated as part of an online ‘disinformation campaign’ by bots and trolls to downplay the link to climate change.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly come under fire (not literally) for his delayed response. The government has also been criticised for weak climate policies, ranking near the bottom of 57 countries in the climate change performance index, and prioritising economics of the coal industry over climate action - even though Australia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.
We can only hope such devastating events will awaken the world to the impacts of climate change and the drastic need for action:
- WIRES - WWF Australia- Port Macquarie Koala Hospital- Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park Fund
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