June 3, 2020

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Forest fires in Australia and the danger to the global climate

Forest fires in Australia and the danger to the global climate
The fires cause high carbon dioxide emissions. But compared to the total amount, they are almost negligible, says climate researcher Mojib Latif. For Australia itself, the fires are nevertheless an ecological disaster.

Recenntly we have most devastating in history bush and forest fires in Australia. However, fears that they will have fatal consequences for climate and weather all over the world are unfounded, says Mojib Latif from the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel. In particular, he does not believe in the thesis that soot and smoke are distributed all over the world, according to the climate researchers. The smoke can even be seen in New Zealand, 2000 kilometers away. But it doesn’t climb too high, so it’s primarily a local problem. It is different with volcanic eruptions, in which material is often thrown into the atmosphere more than 10 kilometers high. Sometimes even the stratosphere above is affected. This dust could actually spread around the world and reduce heat radiation to the earth. It was only after 2 years that the spook was over and the atmosphere was pure again.

Fires in rainforests threaten the climate change

Although the fires release large amounts of carbon dioxide, this has practically no influence on the climate. We release around 40 billion tons of CO2 per year as human beings. What is now blowing up in Australia is really a fraction of it and therefore not relevant to global warming.

This is even more relative if you compare the Australian fires with the rainforests in South America that have been burning for decades. There would be unequal amounts of CO2 released.

New gigantic coal mine in Queensland

So everything half bad? For the world outside of Australia, yes. However, the continent itself is suffering serious wounds, some of which are self-inflicted. Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal, which has a significant share in climate change. The Adani mine is currently under construction in the Australian state of Queensland and is expected to produce 60 million tons of coal per year. That is 50% more than Germany consumed in 2019.

coal mine in Queensland

Danger to the surviving animals

Apart from immeasurable suffering for many Australians directly affected by the fire, it mainly affects the flora and fauna. Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney estimates that half a billion animals died directly or indirectly in the flames not counting frogs and bats. The danger that there will be far more, that entire species of mammals, which only exist in Australia, will die out. Because the animals have to share a much smaller habitat because large areas have burned down.

Australia fires kill half a billion animals as crisis mounts
Australia fires kill half a billion animals as crisis mounts (cnbc.com)

About half of the 50,000 koalas living there died on the kangaroo island off Adelaide. The fact that the rest of them survive is extremely important for the survival of the cute, but not entirely harmless animals, because they are the only ones who are not infected with chlamydia, a bacterial disease that is also dangerous for humans. Last but not least, it is due to global warming that the fires are more violent than ever this season. In 2019, Australia was more dry than ever since weather records started.