Article written by Lina Rodriguez, an environmental scientist from Colombia. You can follow her on Instagram
As many of us are worried about what’s happening in Australia, I’ve made a summary of the current situation, its causes, its consequences and the way we all can help.
Fire season is nothing new to Australians. The country has always experienced bushfires during summer with hot, dry and windy weather making it easy for flames to start and spread. For instance, natural causes such as lightning strikes in drought-affected areas can be blamed most of the time.
However, humans can also be the cause. During the 2019-20 bushfire season, there have been 24 people charged with deliberately setting fires among 183 facing legal action in the state of New South Wales (source: ABC News).
🌀WHY SO INTENSE?
Weather conditions have been unusually severe, making firefighting conditions particularly difficult: Australia is experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades + a heatwave in December broke the record for highest average temperature (some places went well above 40C) + strong winds have made the fires and smoke spread more rapidly (source: CNN).
🌀IS CLIMATE CHANGE RELATED TO THE SEVERITY OF THE FIRES?
The devastating bushfires in Australia stem from a typical weather pattern that has been intensified by climate change. It's not the cause of bushfires but scientists have long warned that a hotter, drier climate would contribute to Australia's fires becoming more frequent and more intense (source: BBC News).
“One of the key drivers of fire intensity, fire spread rates and fire area is temperature. And in Australia we’ve just experienced record high temperatures,” said Mark Howden, director of the Climate Change Institute at Australian National University (source: Reuters).
🌀WHAT CONSEQUENCES? (to name a few)
🗣 Australia’s bushfires since September 2019 have emitted about 350 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equal to 2/3 the country’s annual emissions from man-made sources (source: Reuters).
🗣 Doctors are warning of unpredictable and lasting consequences for public health especially for children, the elderly and asthmatics (source: The Guardian).
🗣 More than 7.3 million hectares have been burned across Australia's six states, an area larger than the countries of Belgium and Denmark combined (source: CNN).
🗣 A total of 24 people across Australia have died this fire season, including several volunteer firefighters (source: CNN).
🗣 About half a billion animals have been affected by the fires across NSW, with millions likely dead. That number could be as high as one billion nationwide, according to ecologists from the University of Sydney (source: CNN).
🗣 New Zealand glaciers turn brown from Australian bushfires' smoke, ash and dust which could increase glacier melt this season by as much as 30% (source: The Guardian).
🤔 WHAT CAN WE DO? HOW CAN WE HELP?
✅ Donations can be made to several organizations working toward victim relief and recovery. Here are some examples:
Red Cross Australia, Intrepid Foundation, Find a Bed, NSW Rural Fire Service, Adelaide Koala Rescue, WIRES Wildlife Rescue, Wildlife Victoria, Victorian Farmers Federation, CVS Foundation of volunteer firefighters, Salvation Army Australia, Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, etc.
🗳 When election time comes, VOTE for leaders who understand the urgency of our climate crisis and are willing to take bold action!
➡️ “Australia’s government is sticking firmly to a position that there is no direct link between climate change and the country’s devastating bushfires, despite public anger, the anguish of victims and warnings from scientists” (source: Reuters).
💡Read, stay informed, share news, ask questions! In the era of connectivity, there are no excuses to ignore what’s happening.
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