Dalila Jakupovic, at the Tennis Open in Australia, collapsed on the floor mid-match after suffering a coughing fit from the thick smoke. She has never had any indications of asthma before this tournament. It is estimated that the amount of smoke inhaled from the wildfires is equal to smoking over one pack of cigarettes a day, which has caused many of the athletes decreased performance and breathing issues. People are urging for the Australian Tennis Open to be cancelled for the health and safety of the athletes performing. Unfortunately, due to the financial implications of the $400 million AU event, it has been pushed through even in these hazardous conditions (Ryan, 2020).
Now this begs the question, aren’t wildfires normal in Australia? Yes, they are, but the extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change has caused record breaking wildfires. Greg Mullins, a professional firefighter of 47 years, said he has never seen anything like this before (NPR, 2020). So far, the wild fires have burned over 46 million acres destroying over 5900 buildings/homes, and killing 29 people and over a BILLION animals (NPR, 2020).
How does this relate back to climate change? From 2015-2018, there was a 77% increase in annual daily population exposure to wildfires, in comparison to 2001-2004 (Watts et al, 2020). India alone had an inflation of 21 million yearly daily exposures. Along with this extreme weather, it produces public health issues, as well as, major economic and social costs within a country. Warming of around 1.5 degrees Celsius has accelerated evaporation in warmer temperatures, causing vegetation and soil to dry out more quickly (Watts et al, 2020). This means that even if there was a normal amount of rainfall, there is still an increased fire risk due to climate change.
NPR’s Leila Fadel said during an interview with Greg Mullions, “So if China, India, and the U.S. aren’t going to reduce emissions, what difference does it make if Australia changes?” (NPR, 2020). WELL, Australia is the 14th largest emitter in the world, the 3rd largest exporter of fossil fuels, and 5th biggest miner of coal (only slightly behind Russia and Saudi Arabia) (Martin, 2020). They also produce 1.2% of all emissions in the world, even though only 0.3% of the world’s population lives in Australia (Martin, 2020) making them the highest emitters per capita of a non-industrial country at 17 tonnes. All of this and there is still talks about expanding the coal mining industry in Australia. The Adani Carmichael Mine would not only accelerate climate change, but would likely be what kills the Great Barrier Reef (Goodell, 2020). So it comes as no surprise that Australia has been ranked the worst-performing country climate change policies. Australia has failed to clarify how they will meet their 2030 emission reduction target. They were also a no-show at the UN climate summit in September 2019 and withdrew from an international fund to tackle climate change. As Donald Miller said, “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice”.
Canada and Australia are similar in the sense that we both produce relatively low emissions per country due to low population, but Canada has some of the highest emissions per capita of a non-industrial country coming in at 15.6 tonnes just behind Australia at 17 tonnes (Ritchie, 2020). This means we are the ones that need to change our habits the most. Now, the question is what can we do to help climate change? The answer is simple: create environmentally healthy habits like learning and raising awareness, voting for climate action, walking and biking more, driving/flying less, driving an electric vehicle, etc. For more information, about some of the ways you can act now read, 24 Ways to Act on Climate Now. Along with benefits to the environment, there are benefits to your health to, like losing weight by actively commuting, reducing costs by reducing our emissions, more jobs, happier and healthier lungs, etc. Check out, the Benefits of Climate Action for more details about this. Be the difference you want to see in this world, and bring your friends along for this ride.
Goodell, J. (2019, June 17). The World’s Most Insane Energy Project Moves Ahead. Retrieved January 23, 2020, from https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/adani-mine-australia-climate-change-848315/
Martin, S. (2019, December 11). Australia ranked worst of 57 countries on climate change policy. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/11/australia-ranked-worst-of-57-countries-on-climate-change-policy
NPR. (2020, January 4). How Climate Change Is Affecting Australia’s Fires. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/01/04/793572196/how-climate-change-is-affecting-australias-fires
Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2017, May 11). CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Retrieved January 23, 2020, from https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions
Ryan, S. (2020, January 20). The Australian Open should be cancelled. Retrieved from https://www.golfdigest.com/story/lets-just-say-it-the-australian-open-should-be-cancelled
Watts, N. (2019, November 13). The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change. Retrieved January 23, 2020, from https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736(19)32596-6