Over the past few months, a series of intense bushfires have been destroying homes and land across Australia. Bushfires have always existed in Australia, and citizens have found ways to manage them, but due to high temperatures and ferocious winds this year, they cannot be contained.
Just as in California, the fires did not just begin due to climate change, but the effects have been amplified by it. The extremely high temperatures in the country certainly do not help. 2019 was the hottest year on record in Australia, which beat the average temperature by 1.5°C. On December 18th, the temperature reached 41.9°C, or 107.4°F, which was the hottest temperature ever recorded. The carbon dioxide released from the fires traps heat in the atmosphere, which will only make temperatures rise as time goes on.
Every state in Australia is experiencing the fires, but New South Wales and Victoria have been hit the hardest. Nearly 15 million acres have burned so far and do not appear to be stopping anytime soon. Dust from the fires has traveled over 2,000 kilometers to New Zealand. The skies in Australia have turned fiery red and orange hues due to the smoke particles interacting with light in the atmosphere. The toxic air is putting hundreds of thousands of human lives in danger. The included picture shows an example of this apocalyptic scene.
There are around 70,000 members of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service working to put out the fires and around 3,000 firefighters working everyday, but most of these people are volunteers who are working long hours to fight for their homes. American and Canadian firefighters have been flown in to help the brave citizens of Australia.
In addition to thousands of people being displaced, the wildlife in Australia has been deeply affected. The environmental minister has stated that up to 8,000 koalas, or one third of the koala population in New South Wales, have been killed from the fires. Koalas have already been on the brink of being functionally extinct, and they are now one step closer. It is estimated by ecologists at the University of Sydney that almost half a billion mammals, birds, and reptiles have died since the fires began. Experts fear that after more devastation from fires, there might not be enough habitat and animals for the species to recover. Smaller species like insects and rodents have been very affected, which could impact the ecosystem in larger ways than expected because the whole system relies on them.
Though it’s not likely that the fires will end soon, there are many ways to help both those who have been forced out of their homes and the wildlife in Australia. Celebrities have been begging for help from their fans and have been extremely successful. Celeste Barber, an Australian comedian, has raised over $27 million for the NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigade. If you are able, please donate to this extremely deserving cause. Any contribution will help.