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Australia Bushfires Climate Change Human Interest International Youth Interests

What’s happening in Australia and why it’s a problem

Written by: Labeeda

The tragic and disastrous effects of the bush fires, which have spread across Australia, have been observed by countries across the globe. Destroying wildlife, land and contributing to loss of human life- the fires have left the world speechless. Acts of goodwill – including endless donation pages – have been circulating social media, along with saddening images of injured koalas and kangaroos. This opens our eyes to the reality of what is occurring in Australia and the need to do something. 

BBC reports that Australia is in the midst of trying to tame “one of its worst bushfire seasons”, which became the reason for the loss of at least 25 lives and the homes of several people. These fires have touched all states in Australia, burning 6.3 million hectares of land since the fires began, but New South Wales and Victoria have been most affected. The country has become familiar with dealing with fires every year in its “fire season”, but in July 2019, the world witnessed the start of these abnormally dangerous and violent fires. In an attempt to control the fires, many countries such as Canada, the United States and New Zealand are lending their support by sending additional firefighters to the scene. Along with this, several volunteers are also aiding Australia in their fight to stop the fires; 90% of those helping are volunteers. 

There are questions regarding the cause(s) of these bushfires, which have proved to be more severe than any fires Australia has previously faced; various potential answers have been proposed to these questions. It is believed that the Indian Ocean Dipole, a “natural weather phenomenon”, has contributed to the intense drought that has affected all states across Australia. Andrew Watkins, from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, has said that the IOD is the “key culprit” of the “current and expected conditions” experienced by people in Australia. However, the BBC states that the “overwhelming scientific consensus” is that increasing levels of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – in the atmosphere, is responsible for the rise in the earth’s temperatures. As CO2 levels continue to rise, it is believed that severe weather conditions, which are caused by the IOD, will occur more frequently. If this is the case, a study by Nature predicts more dry weather and considerably less rain in Australia. 

Dr Thornton is a key figure who has warned that the increasing temperatures will lead to Australia witnessing fires more often. Professor Glenda Wardle acknowledged that it cannot be said that climate change is the reason behind every variation in weather conditions. Yet, when there is a recurring pattern in weather conditions, Professor Wardle believes it “becomes undeniably linked to global climate change.” Whereas, Dr Imran Ahmed perceives a “direct link” between climate change and bushfires; he pins his assertion down to the fact that climate change worsens the conditions “in which the bushfires happen.” Therefore, according to Dr Ahmed, climate change is responsible for the increasingly intense and dangerous fires. 

A report released by the Bureau of Meteorology in 2018 implies that Australia was alerted to the role played by climate change in causing severe weather conditions, including drought. Various emergency leaders and others also made an effort to notify the government about “increasingly catastrophic extreme weather events.” The contribution of CO2 emissions to the deterioration of the situation is reflected in the Paris Agreement; this agreement aims to reduce temperatures around the world by cutting harmful emissions. According to the Department of the Environment and Energy, approximately 1.3% of global emissions can be attributed to Australia, therefore, as part of the Paris Agreement, Australia accepts the task of reducing emissions by 26-28% by 2030, using Direct Action methods. 

The events in Australia have raised awareness on the importance of reducing the effects of climate change, a common goal, particularly under the Paris Agreement. It is hoped that the fires will soon subside, no threat will remain to humans or wildlife, and that the Paris Agreement succeeds in overcoming climate change, creating a healthier world in the process.

Here are some places you can donate in order to support the work to help those suffering from the effects of the fires: Australian Red Cross, Salvation Army, Lifeline Australia and Save the Children Australia (Government-endorsed charities).

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