More than 15 million acres of land have been engulfed in flames over recent months throughout Australia. At least 24 human casualties have been reported, and millions of animals have been killed by the fires, according to a TIME article published over a week ago.
And these figures aren’t fully representative of the destruction -- damage has since continued. The government’s response has been widely criticized as insufficient.
The causes of each individual fire vary, as they always do during the fire season. What is unique to this season are the atmospheric conditions causing a significant increase in the spread and damage done by the fires after they have ignited. The season typically does not even peak until late January, which is cause for concern since we may not have seen the worst of the disaster yet.
Climate change affects everyone by destabilizing the atmosphere of the planet on which we all live. Likewise, it is affected by everyone in some way, meaning we each carry a small amount of personal responsibility in addressing climate change.
Reducing the amount of pollution we create through things like plastic containers, car emissions and meat consumption is one way in which everyone can personally combat climate change to a degree, as is spreading awareness. However, the impact to the environment caused by the corporations we interact with every day is far greater than that of any individual, and a comprehensive understanding of climate issues has to include this impact.
One study from 2017 found that just 100 companies were responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions. ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron, for instance, were each found to be individually responsible for between 1 and 2 percent of total emissions worldwide.
This crucial information is often neglected in discussion of climate change, and we are beginning to see lives lost, in no small part due to unregulated industries making short-sighted decisions that can negatively impact the health of all life on Earth.
Reframing the discussion to include appropriate sources of the pollution responsible for tragedies such as this is one of many important facets of combating climate change worldwide and minimizing the collective harm we are causing the planet.
By presenting informed perspectives backed by scholarly research, students can play a crucial role in addressing climate change and preventing future tragedies like the one currently happening in Australia. It is not enough to admit this is happening. We have to do everything we can to prevent more casualties from occurring.