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Australian Forest Fires Heading into 2020

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While Australia is a place familiar with dry climate and annual forest fires, the rate at which forest fires have been occurring and amount of land being burned is unprecedented. It’s estimated that over 15 million acres of forest have burned across Australia. Its not a coincidence that while a vast portion of the world is on fire from the Amazon to California and global temperatures having been at their highest in recorded history… that Australia is seeing the worst fires they’ve ever known.

To say that climate change and global CO2 emissions are not connected to the forest fires in Australia is to deny the work of the scientists that have dedicated their lives to studying this science and ensuring the world is a better place because of it. To further insult the work and efforts put forth by climate scientists, the Prime Minister of Australia is making deals with the coal industry when a huge portion of the country is literally on fire. Global ‘leaders’ have had this information handed to them by experts in their fields and warned numerous times over decades. Yet even in the year 2020 we are seeing a failure to act upon the very things causing climate change.

To be in an environment that is being ravaged by climate change, like Australia, and making deals with industries like coal that cause climate change in the first place, is to be completely out of touch with reality. Setting aside the ethics and competence of Australia’s Government leaders, focusing on what can be done to turn the situation around in Australia is a better use of time.

Australian Forest Fires by Region

Lets take a look at the current state of Australia’s forest fires and what is being done to combat them. In Australia, forest fires are called “bush fires” in case you have seen them called this in the media. Australian forest is also called “the bush” hence the name. Unfortunately, the drier climate makes bush fires extremely dangerous as a single fire can easily sweep through hundreds of acres in a matter of hours.

Sydney Australia Photo by Liam Pozz

Most of Australia’s fires are occurring in the eastern part of the country in the states of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. This is where world famous cities like Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne all reside. Smoke cover from the forest fires is so thick that many of these cities cannot be seen from space. Anyone who has been on social media has seen photos at some point of cities like Sydney where both tourists and locals have been taking photos with breathing masks on combined with backdrops of dark grey smoke covered cities. If someone told you these were photos from a post apocalyptic movie coming out, it would be believable, but they are in fact very real and happening right now at the time of this article (January 3rd, 2020).

In Victoria Australia, the state that houses the city of Melbourne, most forest fires are occurring further east on the coastline between the cities of Bairnsdale and Mallacoota with more fires spreading northeast of those cities. Hundreds of fires are also occurring in dozens of Victoria’s National Parks like:

  • Brodribb Nature Conservation Area
  • Snowy River National Park
  • Errinundra National Park
  • Alfred National Park
  • St George Plain Nature Conservation Reserve
  • Lind National Park

These are only a few out of the hundreds of fires within National Parks throughout all of Australia. Between Victoria and New South Wales, more than 1200 homes and 18 people have been lost with at least 17 people unaccounted for.

In New South Wales, the bush fires have been so widespread that they have had to order 260 km (160 miles) of coastline to be evacuated with the military stepping in to help with the evacuation. The Australian Navy is helping evacuate thousands of residents from the shores and carrying them to safer ports as far as 16 hours away. There isn’t much of the coastline that isn’t on fire in New South Wales. From north of Coff’s Harbour, around Sydney and south of Bateman’s Bay. Much of the National Parks around Sydney have either been burned through or are on fire.

In Queensland Australia, there are fires from the northern tip extending all the way to the southern border along the coasts and into the mountains. There are multiple bush fires north of Brisbane and south of Bundaberg. Some of these fires are not just because of climate change but in combination to human actions whether intentional or by accident. Dozens of fires have also been reported in the Cairns region of Queensland.

Rosny Park, Tasmania Australia Forest Fire Photo by Kevin Hetebry

Even Tasmania, the southern island in Australia, has forest fires. There’s over 7k hectares of forest burnt in Fingal which spread into a nearby National Park. Firefighters are working around the clock to try and contain the damage and prevent the fires from spreading further.

This is only the east coast of Australia. The Australian fires are not only spreading across the eastern side but in every region of the country. In a photo courtesy of NASA, there are dozens of fires out west even nearby Perth. Fires down by Adelaide and even in the Northern Territory… there isn’t a single state in Australia that doesn’t currently have forest fires at the moment.

From space, the only thing that doesn’t seem to be on fire in Australia is the interior, most of which is desert.

If nothing is done to reverse the effects of climate change that we clearly see in places like Australia, the rate at which we see this damage happen around the Earth will be exponential.

Australia’s Animal Species in Danger from Forest Fires

Hundreds and thousands of animals like koalas and kangaroos are dying due to these forest fires with many volunteers offering help to save injured animals. There are photos spreading across the internet of volunteers giving koalas drinking water that are so badly burnt many of them don’t make it. Many more rescuers holding kangaroos that have bandages on their legs… these are the lucky ones. The fires in Australia spread so quickly that most of these animals don’t have time to make it out. Volunteer rescuers have gone as far as to train rescue dogs and bandage their feet to keep them from being burned in order to find koalas that didn’t make it out of the forest before the fires came through. If they’re still alive the dogs will let the rescuers know where to find them. Koalas were already on the endangered species list before the fires and who knows how many of Australia’s animal species will fair when the fires settle, if they settle.

With much of Australia facing one of the driest springs on record and every state reaching temperatures of 40C (104 Fahrenheit) and above, its hard to say what the future of Australia’s climate and environment will look like.

These landscapes and photos from Australia of nature being destroyed should serve as a warning of things to come globally if we do nothing to address the damage we have done (and are currently doing) to the environment. Not one place on Earth is an exception from the changing climate. It may be pouring down rain where you are now but if the climate continues changing at it’s current pace… decades from now the climate your in may be unrecognizable. To put that into perspective, remember at one point the African Sahara (the world’s largest desert) was once a lush rain forest.

How do the Australian Bush Fires Affect the Rest of the World?

Keep in mind that all of these forests capture and hold billions of tons of CO2, the greenhouse gas most responsible for climate change. So with every tree burned, that captured CO2 then gets released back into the atmosphere and it will be years, decades, if ever… before trees regrow to begin capturing CO2 again. In the meantime, heating up the atmosphere. So not only is more carbon dioxide being released, the very mechanisms that absorb it keeping everything in balance are being taken away.

We know what is causing climate change. The very things that fuel these events. It’s the burning fossil fuels, CO2 emissions from manufacturing and electricity production. Ironically, Australia gets most of its electricity from burning coal according to energy.gov.au. We already have the answers, all we have to do is act on the knowledge we have with the solutions that are within reach. It’s not just Australia that is in danger of looking like most of it’s desert interior, but most of world if we do nothing to stop human accelerated climate change. Not within the ten year time span, by 2030, that the world’s leading climate scientists are giving us… but now.

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Jacob Haust

With a passion for design, electric vehicles, engineering and the environment, Jacob is combining his interests to help make the world a more sustainable place for generations to come.

jacob haust

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