State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Drought and Fire Continue to Threaten Koalas and Humans in Australia

An Australian firefighter gives water to a survivor of the recent fires.
In this now-famous image, a firefighter gives water to a survivor of the recent blaze in southern Australia.

By now, most people are familiar with the above image from the recent devastating wildfires in Australia. But while the rapid internet proliferation of this example of interspecies camaraderie mimicked the spread of the fire itself, there was no happy ending for many victims in Australia’s Victoria state on February 7th. The death toll has reached 210, and there are four fires still blazing in the area. According to the Associated Press, officials have warned that forecasted high winds and high temperatures could provoke another massive flareup.

Drought is a major root cause of the severity of the fires, and unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Continuing climate change is predicted to cause an El Nino event to worsen the drought in southern Australia within the next three years. This is a sad reminder of our fragile relationship with the environment, and another urgent call to combat greenhouse gas emissions and other human impacts on climate.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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Ju Young Lee
Ju Young Lee
15 years ago

This is really alarming that so many places in the world are experiencing unprecedented (in recent history) severe droughts. There was a post about drought in China just two weeks ago and I heard one part of South Korea the most serious drought for past 5 months (only 1.5cm precipitation for 5 months!). And I didn’t know that El Nino was related to droughts and I got to think about connection between droughts and fire (that emits huge amount of CO2 and threaten ecology!).