Canadians have been watching the bushfire tragedy unfolding in Australia with shock and sadness for months. Accelerated by climate change, the increasingly intense fires raging across the continent have so far cost at least 33 lives and thousands of homes while burning more than 10.7 million hectares — an area the size of Guatemala. WWF is greatly saddened by the loss of life and homes, as well as all the injuries, pain and suffering caused by the bushfires.
And while Australia’s trees burn, their species suffer. The almost incomprehensible wildlife loss is estimated at 1.25 billion animals, according to a scientific assessment by WWF-Australia and the University of Sydney.
And the country is not even halfway through its hot, dry, summer fire season.
Bushfires have always happened in Australia. And while it’s not climate change that ignites them, the months of severe droughts and record-breaking heat waves — made more frequent, prolonged and intense by the growing climate crisis — have created the conditions that allowed them to reach this devastating scale.
Making matters even worse are reports from the Australia-based Global Carbon Project that the CO2 released by the fires is already estimated to be two-thirds of the country’s annual emissions.
Until the fires subside, the full extent of damage will remain unknown, but WWF-Australia is working on short- and long-term responses. They’re directing funds to wildlife rescue, care and recovery partners on the ground to save koalas (which have lost 30 per cent of their population in the fires), kangaroos, wombats and other iconic Australian species, many of which aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
As well as immediate wildlife response, WWF-Australia is building out on post-fire recovery plans, including restoring forests and other damaged wildlife habitat, stopping deforestation, cultivating habitat connectivity and improving Indigenous and rural fire management.
Support for emergency response is vitally important, but given the pace and scale of climate breakdown we need to make sure our day-to-day decisions support the well-being of nature and reduce the use of fossil fuels.
Australia, Canada and the rest of the world must take actions in the now to protect ourselves from the devastation of fires, floods and other climate impacts that will only get worse in the future. That’s why WWF is working on innovative nature-based solutions to help address climate change while conserving habitat and safeguarding species.
NOTE: This post will be regularly updated as new information on the fires becomes available