australia fires
January 28, 2020

A fire burning near the Australian capital city of Canberra is the worst threat to the region since the 2003 bushfires that took four lives and destroyed 470 homes, said Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Chief Minister Andrew Barr, per The Guardian.

The Orroral Valley bushfire, sparked earlier this week in the Namadgi National park, has blanketed the city in hazardous smoke, reports Reuters. The fire was ignited after a military helicopter landing created enough heat to set grass ablaze.

As of early Wednesday morning in Australia, the fire spanned 9,498 hectares, per ACT government. The fire was downgraded overnight from an emergency warning to a watch and act warning, but ACT Emergency Services Agency commissioner Georgeina Whelan said the fires are expected to burn in the park for several weeks.

Dry, hot weather in Australia, exacerbated by climate change, is creating the perfect conditions for the fires to grow, and the fires themselves are contributing to the climate crisis via carbon emissions, notes Gizmodo.

Meanwhile, Australia is preparing for a heatwave, expected to hit later this week and into the weekend. Since September, the bushfires have killed 33 people and claimed the lives of roughly 1 billion animals, Reuters reports. Taylor Watson

January 12, 2020

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday conceded he's made some mistakes since the worst season of bushfires ever recorded in Australia broke out, The New York Times reports. He said he wouldn't have taken a heavily criticized family vacation to Hawaii in December while firefighters battled the blazes if he knew what he knows now, while acknowledging there were things he "could have handled on the ground much better."

He also called for a government inquiry into its response to the natural disaster. At least 28 people have been killed in the fires, including a firefighter who died overnight in the state of Victoria.

But despite the government now having a "new appetite" to take on a more direct role in the reaction to the fires, Morrison's words won't be of much comfort to everyone. David Speers, the journalist who interviewed the prime minister Sunday, said his commitments will still likely fall short of many Australians' hopes. Many feel Morrison, who leads the conservative Liberal Party, has implemented weak policies that have failed to curb the country's carbon emissions, and his plan in wake of the fires doesn't appear to be a dramatic shift toward combating climate change. Instead, he reiterated he doesn't want to put jobs at risk or raise taxes to lower emissions, and would rather enhance the country's policies for disaster management and relief, which he believes is just "as much a climate change response as emissions reductions." Read more at The New York Times and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

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