Wildfires are a dangerous accelerator of climate change

Reagan Stanchfield, page editor

From videos of scorched kangaroos being saved from flames to koalas sipping from water bottles, the news and social media have been flooded with sensational images of the devastating wildfires ravaging Australia throughout the past few months. Despite the heart-wrenching stories about the deaths of animals and the destruction of their homes, the fires in Australia have a less obvious, but more drastic impact on the acceleration of climate change. 

Wildfires are a dangerous promoter of climate change because they cause a snowball effect—they are both caused by, and a cause of, climate change—which makes them an urgent target for protecting the planet. According to the New York Times, higher temperatures as a result of climate change create warmer and drier summers, dehydrating forests and leaving them susceptible to wildfires. Consequently, these wildfires release enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is one of the primary causes of climate change. 

The massive scale of Australia’s wildfires will no doubt increase the effects of climate change. Copernicus, the atmosphere-monitoring service affiliated with the European Union, reports that the fires have released smoke covering an “estimated area of 20 million square kilometers,” which can stimulate glacier melting. As of January 6, the fires have also “released approximately 400 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” For reference, the United States released a total of nearly 6,500 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in 2017, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Unfortunately, in response to the fires, Time Magazine reports that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is upholding his country’s environmentally harmful habits, which will ultimately perpetuate both wildfires and climate change. Rather than working to curb climate change, Morrison has the contrary goal that “the nation must become more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate.”

When looking at the global impacts of the wildfires, Australia’s response is utterly disappointing. As some politicians and citizens alike do not acknowledge the causes and effects of climate change, disasters like the wildfires are minimized in the fight against environmental damage. Without immediate action, climate catastrophes will only become more common and more destructive worldwide.