Two major series of fires burned in both the Amazon and Australia, from August to October of 2019 and September to March of this year, respectively.
Although both fires’ level of intensity was extreme and can be attributed to climate change, the exact causes vary slightly. For starters, the fires in the Amazon were caused by slash and burn agriculture.
According to the National Geographic, deforestation has increased along with the rate of fires that have occurred.
“...over 700 square miles of forest had been chopped down, according to the agency—about 25 percent more than the year before,” the article reads. “So far, the number of fires is also up compared to the same period last year.”
According to a Reuters article, part of this deforestation is connected with the Brazilian government and President Jair Bolsonaro, who use deforestation to improve the standard of living.
“Bolsonaro has said his government is protecting the rainforest adequately, but it plans to push ahead with economic development in the Amazon to raise the standard of living,” which, according to the article, “will open protected indigenous reservations to commercial mining and agriculture, a move that environmentalists say can only speed up deforestation.”
While raising the standard of living for those in Brazil would be good for the population, the deforestation of the Amazon, according to Reuters, is detrimental to the world as a whole.
“The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, is a bulwark against global warming because of the vast amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide it soaks up from the atmosphere,” the article states.
In addition, animals have suffered at the hands of both fires. In Bolivia, where fires also took place, it is estimated that over 2.3 million animals have died, according to a Global news story
“... biologists investigating the fire-devastated tropical savanna fear the number of animals missing or killed may exceed 2.3 million,” the story reads.
In Australia, the number is much higher, and Embrace Relief, a non-profit organization that contributes to disaster relief, gives statistics for the overall damage done.
“(As of January), 12-15 million acres have been burned to a crisp, 480+ million animals have died, 2,500+ homes and buildings have been destroyed, 1,000+ wildlife species are on the brink of extinction, and 23+ people have been reported dead,” according to the Embrace Relief website.
While the fires in Australia were significant and caused a lot of tragedy, they can be attributed to a much longer dry season, which is still caused by climate change, as opposed to direct, and recent slash and burn agriculture.
According to University of Louisiana at Lafayette geology associate professor Timothy Duex, climate change has real consequences to the environment that we have now.
“In the case of Australia, that was the worst fire season that they had ever had, and they didn’t know if those animals were going to recover in terms of having natural variability in the gene pool,” Duex said.
Climate change, which caused the fires, and other natural disasters is a human creation now, but in the past, extinctions and rapid climate changes were common.
“If you look at it from a geological perspective, mass extinctions that have occurred, probably the most famous one was the extinction of the dinosaurs, 75 percent of all living organisms were eliminated at that point,” Duex said. “But that led to the development of mammals, and we wouldn’t have evolved if that didn’t happen.”