The Australian bushfires are a climate change disaster of a previously unimaginable sort. Although the flames have, to some extent, been controlled it still remains unclear what happens next. The level of destruction is phenomenal but we can’t say we weren’t warned. In many places, it stretches as far as the eye can see.
A recent downpour has provided a brief respite for firefighters tackling the infernos but forecasts suggest a return to scorching weather will increase the risk of fires spreading once again. The concurrent series of emergencies that broke out in Australia has intensified the challenges for the long term survival of wildlife already struggling with the lack of water, food shortages and destruction of habitat due to the unprecedented heat and drought.
A billion animals killed, thousands of homes incinerated and at least 32 people dead – and those are the immediate effects. The long-term impact of these fires still remains unknown. It’s said to be months before the effect on wildlife populations alone can be better understood and we’re still in the dark as to the truth about the wider environmental and economic impacts – yet it’s still not even the height of Australian summer or fire season.
If we don’t act to make changes, the fires could just be the beginning in a slow-motion climate reckoning of rising sea levels, unprecedented storms, and hellish heat waves. Climate change, though human-caused, works on another time scale entirely. Once its effects are locked in, we’re talking about hundreds of years, even millennia and though we’ve been talking about it for years, the fires in Australia might be the first time the climate crisis finally began breaking into human time.
WIRES is a New South Wales based organisation dedicated to the protection and preservation of native animals. Following the most intense bush-fires Australia has ever seen, and the devastating news that the Koala is functionally extinct as a result, their support and services has never been more in need. Thanks to the widespread international support WIRES received as the World learnt about the devastating fires, WIRES is now able to offer national emergency support, and provide wildlife information and education to the community nationally.