January 31, 2023

The Australian wildfires that started in September 2019 have been truly devastating. They have destroyed more than 17 million acres of land, killed at least 28 people and an estimated 1 billion animals and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

The cause, effect and future impact of these wildfires is a challenging issue to understand as organizations and political leaders point fingers at each other. The Australian Academy of Science acknowledges many reasons for the devastating fires: “Bushfires, along with other weather and climate challenges, pose complex and wide-ranging problems. Population growth, climate change, temperature extremes, droughts, storms, wind and floods are intersecting in ways that are difficult to untangle and address.”

It is important to acknowledge, however, that most can agree that the fires were fueled by droughts and Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, as well as people who have been charged with being negligent or intentionally starting fires under dangerous conditions.

In a time where climate change has become a politically charged issue, it is essential that people educate themselves on the issue instead of just believing what they hear because an array of false or misleading reports have been released regarding the wildfires. Is it all just a natural part of the ecosystem? Crazy pyromaniacs starting fires? The buzz word: “Global warming”? Or is it a result of a human disregard for the environment — AKA climate change?

One thing is certain: This is not just another fire season in Australia and our climate is changing. Australia’s 2018 State of the Climate Report states, “There has been a long-term increase in extreme fire weather, and in the length of the fire season, across large parts of Australia.”

Experts have clarified that while bushfires are not started by climate change, they are escalated by the effects of global warming. The State of the Climate Report also observes, “Australia’s climate has warmed by just over 1 degree Celsius since 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.”

Scientists predict a consistent increase in the devastation of extreme heat events to increase as soon as 2040, and with rising temperatures, Australia is extremely vulnerable to a repeat occurrence.

I am not saying we should give up our cars and modern technology and stop living in the modern age, but we must at least acknowledge that we are causing harm to our earth and the home we share with other people, animals and wildlife. 

Though not the sole cause of the Australian wildfires, humans do leave an impact, often negative, on the environment. It is time we start to pay attention to it.

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