Australian summers used to be what dreams were made of: long, lazy days on the beach or by the pool, backyard barbecues, or hiking adventures with friends and family. But this recent summer has become a bone-melting nightmare: where we find schools, campgrounds and workplaces shut down because of catastrophic fire danger, Australians seeking refuge in air-conditioned areas to avoid hazardous levels of smoke in the air, and entire towns evacuated due to “Code Red” fire weather. Half a million animals incinerated in their natural habitats lost forever. This is Australia’s new climate.
Although hot dry summers are nothing new for Aussies, record breaking temperatures of 41.9 degrees Celsius are not. The link between the current extremes and climate change created by human activity is scientifically indisputable.
climate change in Australia
The fires raging across the southern half of the Australian continent this year have so far burned through more than 5 million hectares. To put that in context, the catastrophic 2018 fire season in California saw nearly 740,000 hectares burned. The Australian fire season began this year in late August (before the end of their winter!). Fires have so far claimed fifteen lives, including three firefighters, and destroyed around 1,000 homes. Early estimates suggest that around 500 million animals have died so far, including 30 percent of the koala population in their main habitat. And this is all before they have even reached January and February, when the fire season typically peaks in Australia.
what has made this latest fire season so extreme?
Wildfires need four ingredients: available fuel, dryness of that fuel, weather conditions that aid the rapid spread of fire and an ignition. Climate change is making Australian wildfires larger and more frequent because of its effects on dryness and fire weather.
Australia’s climate has warmed by more than one degree Celsius over the past century, and this change has caused an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves. Increasing temperatures create more evaporation that dries the soil and fuel load. Perfect breeding ground for forest fires.
Tell me now that climate change isn’t a reality!?
what can we do to help?
With it being mostly volunteers out pulling 12 hour shifts to fight the blaze, Canada has committed to sending more than 30 firefighters out to Australia to help. The Australian government has also asked Canada to send out a water tanker aircraft to douse the flames, like we did during the Amazon forest fires that roared through Brazil just a few months ago.
But short of jumping on a plane out to New South Wales with a fire hose, what else can we do? We can sometimes feel pretty helpless in terms of what we can do to help the devastation, on a micro level, from across the globe.
Plant a tree. While we are in the depths of winter here in North America, Ruckify will plant that tree on your behalf. We have partnered with Eden Reforestation Projects, planting a tree for every rental transaction or sign up done on our platform. Something as seemingly insignificant as a tree could have profound effects on our future and the future of our climate.
other organizations you can join to help fight climate change
- The NSW Rural Fire Service accepts direct financial contributions from the public.
- The Salvation Army has launched a disaster appeal to help support evacuees and emergency services during the current crisis.
- The Australian Red Cross is supporting communities affected by bushfires across NSW, Queensland, and South Australia.
- One of the more successful GoFundMe campaigns is one run by the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, which is helping to rescue koalas affected by the fires.