Australia’s catastrophic fire season that began in August last year is unprecedented, and has caused large scale destruction, mainly in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a 2018 report that identified Southern Australia, along with Central and South America, South Africa and the U.S. West as at risk.
- It has devastated over 10 million hectares of land, killing at least 25 people and tens of millions of animals, besides forcing the evacuation of entire communities
What is causing the fires?
- Record-breaking temperatures, extended drought and strong winds have converged to create disastrous fire conditions.
- The poleward shift of the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds is drawing winter rainfall away from southern Australia, causing a long-term drying trend that makes the landscape more vulnerable to burning.
- Drought and loss of forests cause higher temperatures over the land and a lower humidity, which, in turn, worsens wildfire conditions.
- This is subalpine country dominated by snow gums, a type of eucalyptus. This area has been burnt three times in about 12 years, and snow gums have a limited ability to cope with repeated fire
- Logging can dry up forests and make the remaining trees more susceptible to fire, and the building of more roads and residential areas in the forests means there is more chance of fires igniting from power lines or cars, as well as more property damage and people at risk when fires break out.
- Global climate change is stressing vegetation much more than we realized. Stressed vegetation recovers more slowly and rapid changes from forest to non-forest are possible
- Coal industry has a sway over politics in Australia that is disproportionate to its share of economic production.