Summer of Crisis
In summer 2019, bushfires devasted Australia in ways we have never seen before. Since then, we've faced floods, a global pandemic and now the US election. For some, the images of flames tearing across our beautiful land may seem like a distant memory. For those who lost homes or loved ones, they're sure to be ones they'll never forget.
The Climate Council has recently released the aptly titled 'Summer of Crisis' report. It summarise the key causes and outcomes of the fires and what we can do to minimise the risk of similar future events.
We've put together some of the key points below. You can also read the full report here
The report details 5 key findings. The overwhelming theme of these findings is the effect of climate change and its contribution to the cause and scale of the fires.
While Australia has a long history of bushfires the increasingly hot, dry conditions caused by our changing climate is what caused the fires to be so intense and widespread. The summer 19/20 fire season was the worst ever on record for NSW in scale, loss of properties & burned area.
'Hot, dry conditions exacerbated by climate change primed conditions for dangerous bushfires.'
Things are only predicted to get worse if we don't make massive changes. Our reliance of fossil fuels (gas, oil and coal) needs to completely shift if we have any hope of reducing our emissions. Also, it's estimated the carbon dioxide emissions from the fires themselves in that single season equal that from all commercial aircraft across the world for the entire year.
The exacerbated fires are not only a result of climate change but a major source of the very thing (greenhouse gas emissions) which will cause similar but increasingly more intense events in the future.
'Bushfires rely on five main factors to take hold and spread: high temperatures, low rainfall, low humidity, strong winds and a suitable fuel source.'
More of a numbers person? Here's 10 of the most significant statistics from the report.
- Up to 80% of adult Australians were in some way affected by the fires
- 33 people lost their lives including 4 emergency responders
- 1 billions animals are estimated to have been killed
- 2,439 homes were lost in NSW
- Parts of Sydney experience air quality 12x above hazardous level, in Canberra it was 23x above hazardous level
- 2019 was the hottest, driest year on record
- Every year since 2013 has been amongst the 10 hottest years on record
- Up to 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were released (more than double Australia's annual emissions of about 531 million tonnes
- 81% of the Blue Mountains heritage area were burned
- Our tourism sector is set to lose $4.5billion
'Climate change is increasing the likelihood of ‘compound events’, where multiple extremes coincide or occur in close succession, resulting in greater impacts'
Where to from here?
Australia (and the rest of the world) need big changes to prevent the increase in intensity and frequency of events like these. This will only by done by significant and immediate emissions reductions through actions like transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Don't let governments and big corporations fool you. Reusable cups, metal straws and bamboo cutlery are a great entry point, every bit matters. But for real change we need to hold the big guys accountable.. and you can.
Use your vote - when there's an election coming up, research the parties and find out each of their policies and promises on climate action.
Write to your MPs - voting is powerful but the opportunities to do so are few and far between. In the meantime, demand more from those currently in power.
Show up. Be seen, be heard, be counted - to events, marches, panels.. (when it's safe to do so where you are).
Want to learn more?
The Climate Council has many other fanstactic resources - reports, articles, templates to send to your MPs & it's all free!
Check it all out at www.theclimatecouncil.org.au
(However, as a crowd-funded organisation, if you find their stuff useful you may want to consider a donation if you are in a position to do so).