A bushfire crisis
In recent weeks, social media has been flooded with traumatic photos of red-orange skies and biodiversity in distress in the bushfire menace.
Summed up, this is the Australian bushfire crisis.
When did the bushfires start?
In Australia, bushfires are a common phenomenon during the summer season, but in late July, one of the worst bushfires in Australian history started.
In comparison, the "Black Saturday bushfires" in 2009 are known as the deadliest bush fires experienced in Australia ending in the deaths of 173 people.
With the current fires, 27 people have died nationwide including one firefighter and an estimated 10 million hectares (15.6 million acres) of bush burnt. Severe drought coupled with high temperatures gives the bushfires a devastation potential from January through February.
The sheer magnitude of the bushfires has resulted in people from different states being rendered homeless with the most affected state being New South Wales, the most populated state in Australia, with more than 4.9 million hectares burned down translating to 12.1 million acres.
Victoria follows right after NSW with 1.2 million hectares burned. Among the confirmed 27 dead people, 3 resulted in Victoria when a mega blaze was formed after two large fires at the border of NSW and Victoria merged.
Other states affected include town of Vivonne Bay on Kangaroo Island where 2 people perished and vast biodiversity obliterated in the fires.
In total, more than 17.9 million acres of land have been burned cross six states in Australia. During the 2019 Amazon fires, an estimated 17.5 a million acres of rainforest burned down. Also, in 2019, California State lost 247000 acres to wildfires in the area. Showing no signs of subsiding the Australian fires is a tragedy of a global scale.
What is the extent of damage to Australian biodiversity?
In New South Wales (NSW) alone, an estimated half a billion animals have been affected with millions dead. 1/3 of the Koala population in NSW has succumbed to the bushfires.
Australia boasts a wide variety of wildlife from the iconic marsupial the Kangaroo and an additional 500+ species of mammals, insects, and reptilian.
The losses towards wildlife could total well over a billion after the fires have extinguished, ending in the possible extinction of some local wildlife. In the past years, 34 species in Australia have been declared extinct as a result of bushfires.
What is being done?
At the start of the year, NSW and Victoria declared a state of emergency, to step up efforts to combat the fires. Military forces such as the Navy and the Airforce have also been deployed by the federal government to assist firefighters in containment efforts. A $4200 offer was announced by The Prime Minister to encourage any volunteers willing to help the firefighting exercises.
Countries like the United States, Canada, and New Zealand have also sent in their firefighters to help boost the firefighting efforts.
So does it boil down to Climate?
Despite the Australian government agreeing that severe drought and high temperatures are partly to blame for the bushfires, it refuses to acknowledge the fact that the bushfires are a result of dramatic climate change experienced globally.
According to experts, climate change has played a key role in the occurrence of fires explaining why the fires have happened earlier in the season.