Political Corner: World leaders can’t continue to shrug off wildfires while courting Big Coal

Annual fires have become devastating disasters in places like Australia, the Amazon, and BC

The Australian wildfires have razed the continent, killing humans, animals, and whole ecosystems. Photo: Getty Images

By: Kelly Grounds, Peak Associate

Last year, the world watched as forest fires in the Amazon led to some of the worst environmental damage the world has seen in recent decades. Throughout all of the devastation, there was a hope through multinational cooperation that we would never have to witness destruction on that level again. Yet less that a year later, Australia is battling approximately 135 separate bushfires in its southeast, including one “megafire.”

The bushfires did not come out of nowhere. Although Australia experiences annual seasonal bushfires, the fires this year are larger, more numerous, and subsequently harder to deal with. This is in part due to rising temperatures and more frequent droughts that have increased the vulnerability of their ecosystem to fires. 

Worsening weather patterns is a result of the willful ignorance of global politicians. Throughout 2019, the Australian prime minister and his party fought against bills that would have lowered Australia’s emissions in favour of protecting the coal industry. The United Nations has also been critical of Australia’s process to limit their emissions, and stated that the country was one of the G20 nations in need of improving their numbers. 

Right now, the Australian bushfires feel like a distant tragedy, but the experience of losing everything to fire is not a distant feeling for many residents of BC. In 2017 and 2018, the province fought several devastating forest fires that cost taxpayers millions of dollars. While 2019 saw fewer fires than the past two years, there is no guarantee that 2020 will follow suit. The reality is that extreme weather events are becoming the new normal.

As weather patterns become harder to predict, we find ourselves in a dangerous middle ground between trying to stop the planet from warming further, and adapting to what changing climate throws us — like devastating fires. This does not mean that we stop fighting climate change. There has to be continued urgency in pressuring policy makers to develop plans that have a real impact on curbing CO2 emissions, and halting more devastation.