Our hearts go out to all people and wildlife who have been affected by the catastrophic Australian bushfires. The most recent report by the Associated Press report that 12.35 million acres of land has burned across Australia, at least 24 people have sadly died, and a devastating 480 million animals are believed to have perished in the New South Wales (NSW) bushfires alone since September 2019, according to Professor Chris Dickman from the University of Sydney. This fire season in Australia alone has been ongoingly referred to as unprecedented, catastrophic, disastrous, and most perhaps most frightening, apocalyptic. Sadly, this may be the most terrifying natural disaster to occur, to date, as the direct result of the climate crisis.
Climate change is scary, and many Australians have witnessed the helplessness first hand. The community have come together like never before, raising millions and millions of dollars, bushfire related posts viral across social media platforms, and countless citizens volunteering, giving resources, food or services. The love, compassion and goodwill that has been shared has been outstanding. Yet, in the background, there is political debating, attacking and sadly, still climate change denial. It is not surprising, as the politicians have been actively confusing the public for a long time now, unlike in European countries where the science is treated as facts. To simply outline the connection between the enormity of these bushfires, the biggest that we have ever experienced in history, we have created this free downloadable fact sheet outlining the interrelationship between the fires and climate change.
We have outlined a non-exhaustive, but simple six key areas explaining how climate change has accelerated wildfires, and how the scale of the bushfires, further escaserbate the climate crisis in turn. We encourage you to download and share this fact sheet at your own discretion to spread education. The six key areas will be elaborated upon below:
Global warming is causing the earth to warm at unprecedented rates due to the amount of greenhouse gases, including CO2 and methane emissions are trapped in the atmosphere. This has resulted in record-high temperature peaks, gruelling heatwaves, hot winds, and irregularity across seasonal weather conditions overall. The fires emit unimaginable amounts of emissions, making is increasingly difficult to reach emission containment targets in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement. The year of 2019 was the hottest ever on record in Australia, despite the Prime Minister denying a direct link. The intensity of the bushfires, also create its own challenging weather conditions, including lightening and intensified heat.
Many regions in Australian communities are experiencing droughts before summer has even started. The dry land paired with lack of rainfall creates a lack of water supply, and high-risk fire conditions. The Climate Council report that the dry land and drought means that vegetation is more flammable and therefore more likely to support extreme fire behaviour and spot fires. In addition, they report that the opportunity for hazard reduction burning to limit the threat of bushfires is closing, with all year round bushfires. The loss of water stores and polluted water from ashes and bushfire embers also create more challenging environmental conditions, in light of climate change.
Deforestation is one of the leading causes of climate change as forests store and absorb massive amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Man-made deforestation, primarily due to animal agriculture is a major contributor to the climate crisis, and such catastrophic bushfires burn forests, which takes many years to restore. An Associate Professor of the University of Wollongong reported that approximately 30% of the forest in NSW has been burned, but that may increase to around 50% due to ongoing fire conditions.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
This Australian bushfire season has already emitted millions of tonnes of CO2 and has exceeded well over 50% of global emission targets for a whole year, leaving us vulnerable to exceeding our CO2 equivalent targets one week into the new year. Despite confusion fuelled by politicians regarding Australia’s global emission performance, Australia ranked 56th out of 57 countries on their climate change policy based on the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index, scoring a grim 0.0 compared to Portugal, the highest ranked country scoring 97.8 percent.
Burning Fossil Fuels
Our government enables, funds and makes a lot of money through the fossil fuel industries at the expense of our natural environment. This includes the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, accelerating global warming and environmental destruction. There have been two recent controversial approvals, where the Australian government permitted a Norwegian company called Equinor to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, risking an oil spill and further destruction to our oceans. Why? Money. On their website, you will shamefully find greenwashing and front page misreports of their environmental concern. The Australian government are also encouraging the opening of a brand new Coal Mine called Adani to open. For what? Money. This is negligent beyond comprehension.
Ecosystems and Forests Destroyed
In addition to the devastating 480 million animals believed to have perished in the recent NSW bushfires, it is predicted that many more will be lost with the ongoing nature of the fires, and due to the land and shelter destruction, as well as water and food loss for wildlife. Ecosystems have been destroyed beyond belief, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported that the precious Australian wildlife are now in a great species extinction crisis due to the catastrophic megafires, with only 5% of koalas remaining. There are many other wildlife and animals also at risk and severely affected, including kangaroos, wallabies, snakes, birds and more. Reforestation is desperately needed, yet takes time, and a lot of money and resources, which is difficult when the government is not fully on board.
How You Can Help
Most people who are on the ground, dealing with these disasters report that the single best way to provide immediate help and relief is through financial donations. We recommend the follow credible, and amazing non-profits below:
- The NSW Rural Fire Service
- The VIC Country Fire Authority (CFA)
- WIRES: Australian Wildlife Rescue
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
- The Australian Red Cross
Very importantly, and even if it’s reluctantly, but we must participate in the politics of climate change; Australians especially. It should not be a political issue, however, the politicians who are currently in power are who we entirely rely on to make enormous, national-wide shifts towards renewable energy, climate change policy, rapid responses to reforestation and response to disaster from a humanitarian and environmental standpoint. We need them to stop relying on burning fossil fuels, and selling the souls of Australia to large companies that are greenwashing us by their tacky environmental marketing, for economic and financial gains. We, Australians, voted the current political party in, and we do not have time to wait for our next opportunity to vote. The current Prime Minister, a long-standing climate denier, has been the subject of hefty criticism in his response to and management of the current fire catastrophe, must either step up immediately, or step down entirely due to the urgency of the current climate crisis.
With the United States (US) presidential election approaching in 2020, we urge American citizens to please observe and learn from our mistakes, and to seriously consider the environmental policies, climate participation and caution taken in regards to preparing for natural disasters as the result of climate change, as well as building management strategies to effectively respond to the disasters. The preparation should include rejoining the UN Global Paris Climate Agreement, and to seriously transition towards renewable energy, green transportation, improved waste and packaging management, improved animal agriculture and so on. The next 1, 2, 3, and 4 years are absolutely pivotal, and sadly, largely political. The next president of the US will have a disproportionate amount of power to this end.
In conclusion, educate yourself with the facts, and spread the word. It is your right to understand what is going on beneath the service of politics and opinions. Continue donating money and resources if you can, and spread awareness if you can’t. Most importantly, we must keep the pressure on government and our politicians, nationally and globally. If these politicians are willing to take on the responsibility of being Prime Minister or President of a country, making decisions on behalf of the wellbeing of an entire country, which impacts the entire planet, they must be held accountable to do the right thing; what is ethical, moral and immediately necessary.
Photo credit: Matthew Abbott, @mattabbottphoto