If you haven’t heard about the Australian bush fires by now, you’ve probably lived under a stone for the last 3 months. The whole country is in the grip of perhaps the fiercely bush fires ever.
In large parts of Australia – especially in the states of Queensland and New South Wales – destructive fires are raging. Green natural areas turned into blackened, bare landscapes. Although Australia is confronted with bush fires every year, the intensity of the fires now is out of the ordinary. In this article you find a brief overview of the impact of the Australian bushfires and what we can do to help.
What Caused the Australian Bushfires
2019 was the hottest year for Australia ever recorded. The strong wind in combination with local temperatures up to 48.9 degrees and a persistent drought have been causing natural fires for months. These fires are able to spread very easily because of all the dried out plant materials. More than 18 million hectares have already been burned (which is approximately the Netherlands and Belgium combined). And an estimated 1 billion animals have died. Even though some fires have now been extinguished, it is very likely that in the coming weeks and months many more animals die as a result of lost habitat and food sources. In addition, at least 28 people have been killed and more than 2,000 houses have been destroyed.
Large amounts of CO2 are also released from the extensive forest fires. These fires are accounted for half of the CO2 emissions of all of Australia in 2019. The air quality in Australia therefore suffers enormously from the fires. In Sydney, on January 1, it was measured that the air quality was 23 times higher than what is considered “dangerous”. The smoke released by the fires produce fine particle air pollution which threatens the health of humans and animals. This smoke does not only stay close by the wildfires but travel great distances. The smoke from Australia has drifted across the Pacific and led to hazardous air quality in big cities throughout Australia, New Zealand and cities in South America as smoke reached both Argentina and Chile.
Reports also indicated that Canberra measured the worst air quality in the world.
So is all of this actually down to climate change?
The answer to that is a bit complicated. Scientists have warned for a long time that a drier and hotter climate will contribute to fires becoming more frequent and more intense. Many parts of Australia have been in very drought conditions for years, which has made it easier for the fires to grow and spread. However, it is not yet clear to what extent humans are responsible for this, and to what extent natural variability is the cause. Climate models do, however, indicate that the risk of forest fires will increase in the future. An increase in temperature will also lengthen the season in which forest fires can occur.
The best contribution you can make from the Netherlands is a donation to the firefighters or organizations that are helping people and saving animals. At following international initiatives is a donation well spent:
- The IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) has started an action to save wild animals from the fires.
- The Red Cross has opened a giro number for Australia. You can donate money on giro 5125.
- Support the local firefighters via the NSW rural fire service. Thousands of (volunteer) firefighters have been committed to fighting fire in the state of New South Wales for weeks.
*Iris is one of our guest editors from The Netherlands. She’s got a big interest in photography, fashion, spirituality and traveling. She was 3 months old when she was on the plane for the first time and has been to every continent in the meantime. You can follow iris on Instagram.