Wildfires Threaten Australia’s Capital

“It may become uncontrollable.”

Rick Rycroft/AP

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The historic and deadly wildfires that have engulfed Australia since September continue to rage, with residents living in and around the national capital city of Canberra bracing for more devastation. Local officials have declared a state of emergency, the first in 17 years, for the entire capital territory.

So far, the Australian bush fires have killed 33 people, destroyed thousands of homes, and burned 26.2 million acres of land. International media has been flooded with pictures of blazing fires and wind as people and animals alike seek refuge. As Mother Jones‘ Will Peischel reported last month, the fires have been fueled by the global climate crisis:

Since September, the combination of soaring temperatures and a severe drought has triggered wildfires across Australia that have enveloped more than six times the land burned during California’s devastating 2018 wildfire season. The current blazes encompass an area about the size of Scotland and have released an estimated 200 million tons of carbon dioxide—equivalent to about 40 percent of the country’s annual average carbon emissions—into the atmosphere above the state of New South Wales, where the fires have been the most devastating. With more than 100 separate fires still burning, the end isn’t anywhere in sight. Some estimates have wildfires continuing for months into 2020.

Area residents are being warned of deadly risks.

 

“This fire may become very unpredictable,” Andrew Barr, the chief minister of Australia’s capital territory, said in a statement. “It may become uncontrollable.”

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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