Was ‘Man’ Responsible For The Australian Bushfires?

Australia, home to over 2000 species of distinctive and unique land animals has experienced one of the most brutal attacks ever from nature. The 2019 Australian bushfires also known as the Black Summer was the most devastating wildfires Australia has ever experienced.

Fire danger level indicator - Australian bushfires
‘Fire danger rating today’ board in Australia

The 2019 Australian bushfires have burned more than 11 million hectares ( 27.2 million acres) of land according to BBC. The fires have taken lives of over 1 billion animals, 33 human beings and destroyed over 6000 homes across Australia. The country is still battling with about 100 fires across its territory. The fires have had its effect on 5 million people displacing about 100,000 of them.

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Animals that have survived are having a worse period than humans as the fires have devoured their shelter and food. Thus, accelerating animal deaths. Scientists also fear long-term damage to the ecosystem.

History of Australian Bushfires

Bushfires have a prominent place in the natural ecosystem of Australia. In fact, some species are dependant on bushfires for growth. You know, ‘Life always finds a way’.

Koala on a Eucalyptus tree. This tree has adapted to the Australian Bushfires.
Eucalyptus trees have adapted to survive by depending on fires for growth.

Bushfires have existed in the Australian environment from the very beginning of the formation of the continent. The deadliest wildfires Australia has ever experienced was the Black Saturday (2009) that tragically killed 173 people. Here is a list of major bushfires in Australia from 1851.

But if we compare in terms of the total area burned, the 2019 fires will be the most devastating bushfire History has ever recorded in Australia.

Does climate change have a hand in the 2019 Australian Bushfires?

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Australian Bushfires (2019) Map

The disastrous droughts mainly due to the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) are said to have energized the fire season to start off as early as September 2019 which prolonged until January 2020. The area burned in Australia this fire season is 14 times greater than that of 2018 Californian Wildfires. This is more than that of the total area of South Korea. The negative phase of the southern annular mode is also responsible for bringing dry conditions to Australia.

So there was lots going on in terms of natural climate variability for this season to be quite hot.

Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick – UNSW.

Also, due to Australia’s geological position, it is richly green when it rains and poorly dry when it doesn’t. Reports have shown that Australia has had the hottest temperatures in 60 years and has heated up just by 1 °C. But its impact was not insignificant. Then what do you think would happen if the world was heated up by 2 °C. There a lot of predictions made that earth could heat up by 2 °C by 2050 and cause a lot of negative effects.

How did the Fire start?

Arson could have started the Australian Bushfires

Although the exact or precise reason for the start of this wildfire is not known, sources say the reasons may be arson, lightning strikes, smoking, campfires, etc. I go with the ignition by the heat from the sun. Due to Australia’s tinder-dry vegetation, there is no doubt that even a small spark could set off an extreme rapidly spreading wildfire. Also, strong winds and low humidity supports and boosts the spread of fire. The speed of a forest fire is faster than the average human being can run. Digging further, the approximate speed of a forest fire is 6.7 mph and that of grass fire is 14 mph.

What are the efforts of the Australian government?

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison takes a look at the destruction caused by the fires

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the government was pledging an extra 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.4 billion dollars) to set up a national bushfire agency. Although Australia is the 4th largest producer of coal, it is the biggest exporter of coal. The Australian government holds it firm that there is no link between climate change and wildfires despite public anger. So, the government also receives a massive heatwave in the political arena.

Map of Australian Bushfires on Jan 4, 2020
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 04: Maps of active fires are displayed in the emergency center on January 4, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. The HMAS Choules was deployed to help evacuate thousands of people stranded in the remote Victorian coastal town following fires across East Gippsland. (Photo by Dominic O’Brien/Getty Images)

Is Humanity as a Whole accountable?

The man-made global warming is one of the major reasons for the unprecedented wildfires in Australia. We live in an interdependent environment. Therefore, the protection of biodiversity is very important if we are so keen to protect ourselves.

Many animals that aren’t found anywhere else in the world are found in this continent. These include Kangaroos, Koalas, Dingos, Tasmanian devils and a lot more. So, these types of extreme wildfires pose a major threat to the biodiversity of Australia. About a third of the Koala population have lost their lives in this year’s fires. The bushfires have also roasted a lot of insects that are so important for the ecosystem. Insects have one of the most important jobs on the planet that is to pollinate the plants, which then turn to forests.

The 2019 bushfires released a massive 400 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Australia now has one of the worst air qualities in the world. This amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere will contribute to global warming on a large scale.

New South Wales (NSW) fires impact

Climate change is making these disasters worse, and these disasters are making climate change worse


Scientists fear that this could pose a threat to the upcoming years as more and more devastating fires could be experienced in Australia. Although bushfires were a part of the ecosystem in Australia, it was never supposed to be so extreme. This can be linked with the rise in global average temperatures and changing climatic conditions in the world. We must find a way to tackle this problem globally and efficiently that will not only stop the growing carbon emissions but will replenish the biodiversity that is essential for prolonged survival.

What we can do now?

This was never inevitable as we have had and are still having an ample number of opportunities to bring down our carbon emissions. Adaptation to change is what we should be working on. Here’s how you can help Australia recover from the destructive bushfires it had experienced.

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