For two months, the world has watched in horror and despair as one of the most beautiful and diverse continents on our planet is ravaged by fire. While New South Wales and Victoria were most affected by the bushfires, much of the country was covered in blazes, some uniting into super fires. More than two dozen people have perished, 10 million hectares (40,000 square miles) of land is destroyed, and more than a billion animals are predicted to be dead.
While arson has been suspected and investigated, it is not the root cause of these bushfires. Even prime minister Scott Morrison, who downplays the seriousness of climate change and who claims taking action would damage the economy, has acknowledged climate change’s influence on these dramatic and deadly blazes.
2019 was the hottest year on record for Australia. Bushfire risk reached a high point September through November, and typically bushfire season lasts through March. Rising levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere change radiation balance and allow less heat to escape. Combine that with the fact that Australia also received 40% less than average rainfall this year, and the perfect hot and airy conditions for these fires to grow and spread quickly are created. While prescribed burns often help mitigate these problems, the affects of climate change are making it harder to carry them out successfully.
At the beginning of this month, rain and hail began to fall, helping to provide relief from the fires. While this is great news, the giant hail balls, wind, and intense rain are causing even more damage and flooding. We must continue to help the Australian people and animals with the devastation and recovery they are facing. More fires are still burning, and two months of bushfire season still lay ahead of us. The crisis is far from over.