Editorial: Climate change is a real threat

Smoke+and+haze+cover+a+road+in+Australia+during+the+recent+fires.+The+son+of+theology+teacher+Mrs.+Rebecca+Heger+provided+the+photo.+

Photo submitted

Smoke and haze cover a road in Australia during the recent fires. The son of theology teacher Mrs. Rebecca Heger provided the photo.

Megaphone Staff

Horrible fires in Australia make it clear that climate change is real, and it very well may be up to our generation to solve this crisis.

Our knowledge of the world is changing. Although we still have much to learn across all fields of study, we are no longer restrained by limited technology and a complete lack of understanding when it comes to the air we breathe and the ground we walk on. Science and technology have enabled us to break down walls, encouraging exploration and investigation into the mysteries of our planet and universe.

With the advancements in science and experiments to ensure truthfulness, we have discovered a threat to our entire world, a threat that was caused by us. Despite continuing noise denying its legitimacy or ignoring its effects, human-driven climate change is no longer a mystery; it has become our new reality.

As the new year began in Australia, bushfires ravaged the Australian landscape, devastating most states and creating hardships for numerous families throughout the region. CNN reports that “entire towns have been engulfed in flames, and residents across several states have lost their homes. The heaviest structural damage occurred in NSW, the country’s most populated state, where 1,588 homes have been destroyed and over 650 damaged. In total, more than 7.3 million hectares (17.9 million acres) have been burned across Australia’s six states — an area larger than the countries of Belgium and Denmark combined. The worst affected state is (New South Wales), with more than 4.9 million hectares (12.1 million acres) burned.”

Sadly, those numbers and estimates will only increase with time. CNN also reported that around 28 people have died due to the fires, and they estimate that somewhere around half a billion animals have been affected. They added that almost a third of koalas potentially may have died.

Mr. Grant Heger, son of theology teacher Mrs. Rebecca Heger, currently lives in Australia and has seen the effects of these bushfires. Although he noted in an email that there were no bushfire outbreaks where he lives, which is in the southeastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, the impact of the them has been prominent across the continent. He wrote, “There have been days where Melbourne had the worst air quality in the world due to bushfire smoke. This prevented us from enjoying the outdoors, or even opening our windows, as smoke and particulate matter would then permeate the house.” 

Heger added that traveling became an issue, especially during the Christmas season, due to the fires. “The New South Wales government issued a travel warning for commuters to wait to begin their travel, as many major highways were closed due to bushfires. My family had already begun our trip up north and got caught with our first night being in Goulburn. About 15 minutes outside of the town, we saw what looked to be like a large amount of fog up ahead, but as we entered, we realized it was bushfire smoke,” wrote Heger.

One of the issues Heger wrote about in his email involved the stress surrounding the low air quality. Breathing in too much smoke, he points out, can cause health issues down the road for those who could not stay indoors. “If you attempted to buy an air purifier for your home, shops were sold out for weeks. PM2.5 masks have also been on very short supply within the country as Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and more were hit by poor air quality for long periods of time, Heger noted.

Bushfires are certainly not uncommon in Australia as the country frequently experiences extremely high temperatures and dry and humid air, which does not always bode well for their environment. Many people could argue that these bushfires are just a natural part of the weather cycle for Australia, but climate experts disagree.

Time reports, “Climate scientists warn that the scale and devastation of the wildfires are clear examples of the way climate change can intensify natural disasters.” 

The Australian government has already received severe backlash as it has been reported they have neglected to tackle climate change head on and some and power are even unconvinced that climate change is really the problem.

Greg Mullins, a former fire commissioner, went on NPR saying, “So our national government – they’re missing in action in terms of leadership, and it’s all because the penny has dropped with the Australian public that our out-of-control wildfires are driven by climate change. This has been a 20-year trend. We have 10 million acres on fire in one state alone. Our national government doesn’t want to know about climate change. They’re doing very little to help the states fight these fires.”

Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate scientist with the University of NSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, added, “(The Australian government is) burying their heads in the sand while the world is literally burning around them, and that’s the scary thing. It’s only going to get worse.”

This problem has only become commonplace as we head into the next decade. Several politicians, even ones governing the United States currently, have rejected efforts to combat climate change because they are too worried about losing money. Many have their hands in investments in coal and natural gas, which has made them turn a blind eye to efforts promoting increased usage of cleaner energy.

If we want to win, if we want our future generations to not be burdened by the mistakes of those currently in offices, we must start by changing our attitude and mindset when it comes to climate change. This issue deserves more than simply questioning what changing policies will do to our economy. It deserves more than politicians asking themselves what their net worths will look like.

Global warming, whether politicians and citizens wish to believe it, is real, and it is being directly accelerated by humans. We have an important choice to make. Hopefully, we choose wisely.