When a calamity or tragedy strikes, one’s best efforts are directed at tackling it first and then figuring out what caused it to happen.
However, if we were to think about the bushfires in Australia’s Kangaroo Islands we would probably try to get answers to what caused the fire? What after-effects is the fire going to cause and what damage the fire may cause after it has been extinguished? It all narrows down to just two words… “Climate Change”. Unimaginable climate change. Period.
Although bushfires are common to the season in Australia, firefighters are battling to put out the worst blazes the country has ever seen. Even as rain and hail hit some parts of the nation, more than 80 fires are still burning and about 30 are still out of control.
29 people and more than a billion animals have been killed in the fires and over 186000 square kilometers of land has been destroyed. The rain has helped reduce the fire in some areas but it will not be enough to extinguish them.
Moreover, the lightning during the rains has started some new fires as well and led to numerous other concerns like landslides, weakened trees and mudslides.
If we think about what caused the fire, there is no one factor alone. The hot dry weather, the drought, dried trees, dry lightning, and the global heating are all responsible for sparking the fire of such scale along with the dry winds that aggravated the fire.
Until a few weeks back as environmentalists discussed the various possible ways of reducing carbon emissions to slow down global warming, little did they know that a fire like this would not only disrupt the ecosystem but add extensively to global warming.
Australia’s bushfires have released 400 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (i.e. 400000000000 kgs ) and this will stay in the atmosphere until the forest grows back or maybe even later. This amount is nine times the amount of CO2 that was produced during the record-setting fire season of California from 2018.
According to NASA, smoke that has risen from the bushfires in Australia has circumnavigated the globe. This may be attributed to a phenomenon called “Fire Clouds” which allows smoke to travel 10 miles high from the origin and from there it can disperse to thousands of miles away.
In Sydney alone, the air that people are breathing is equivalent to smoking 19 cigarettes. Even though all fires emit smoke, the scale of the emissions and the severity of the fires causing these emissions are concerning climate change scientists all around the globe.
Last year, the Australian government ensured that they reduced the emissions from man-made sources to roughly 540 million tons. However, this year, the fire has already crossed two-thirds of last year’s emissions.
Generally, when forests burn, ecologists aren’t very concerned as they consider the fires to be carbon neutral. As the forests grow back, the carbon that has been released into the atmosphere due to the fires is taken back in.
However, ecologists are unusually concerned this time due to the scale of the fires. About 30 fires including one massive “megafire”, which was a result of two fires merging, are still burning and emitting tons of carbon into the atmosphere even as you read this. Most of these forests could take even longer than decades to grow back.
Scientists fear that some of the species of animals have been destroyed due to the fires and may have become extinct. If human beings continue exploiting nature and its resources the way they have until now, the day isn’t far that the entire planet will be on fire and human beings will become extinct too.