Australian Fires

Massive bushfires are burning across Australia, and climate change is quite certainly the major culprit.

Australia has just faced one of its worst droughts in decades, and this has allowed the fires to flourish. More than 1,300 firefighters have fought the flames the past month in Queensland and New South Wales, and continue to fight about 120 blazes across western Australia. The worst-hit state is New South Wales, where fires have raged in both rural areas and populous coastal cities and the blazes have destroyed over 1 million hectares of land. Little rainfall, high winds, and temperatures predicted to be 104℉ will only prolong the fires. The firemen crews plan to fight fires until January when rainfalls are finally expected to be continuous. Authorities in both the states have blamed a 16-year old, who was charged with arson on November 14, for deliberately starting some fires. So far, six lives have been lost and over 300 homes have been destroyed. 

The population of koalas has also been severely hurt by the fires. An estimated 350 of the endangered species have died, and this number is expected to rise in the coming weeks.

Last year was Australia’s hottest summer. Climate change has led to an increase in extreme heat events and the severity of other natural disasters, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Many scientists believe that Australia could have days reaching 122 °F. As the country has gotten hotter and drier, Sydney’s water supply has dwindled. Sydney is Australia’s most populated city and New South Wales’s capital, and its dams are predicted to run out of the water by the year 2022. According to the New South Wales water authority, more than 85 percent of greater Sydney’s water supply relies on rainfall. As the drought continues, Sydney’s residents may have to confront a water crisis. 

The government’s action in response to the climate emergency has been limited. Australia agreed to cut its CO2 emission in 2015 under the Paris agreement, but, according to the United Nations, Australia has failed to meet its goal. Tom Beer and Graeme Pearman, two meteorologists, had predicted the effect climate change would have on bushfires in the 1980s and have noted little change in policy after their findings. Pearman attributes this to “lobbying” which “has been extremely powerful in a country driven by the resource sector that includes uranium, coal, and gas.” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack called climate change concerns “the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies,” and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to acknowledge climate change. People have gone to the streets to express their displeasure with the lack of governmental action, including participating in a student-led worldwide climate-strike walkout. 

This extremely destructive fire is clearly due to climate change, even if officials refuse to acknowledge it. As the effect of climate change on our world increases, our global leaders need to be willing to take action, or the people and wildlife will feel the consequences.

By Sagarika Pal

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