每日跟讀#763: Australia’s bushfires: 2019 like nothing seen before

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· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English

每日跟讀#763: Australia’s bushfires: 2019 like nothing seen before

As the bushfires in Australia this year extend across five million hectares, an area larger than many countries, stories of destruction have become depressingly familiar.


So far 24 people and 460 million animals have been killed. In New South Wales (NSW), the worst-affected state, up to 1,365 homes have been destroyed. It is too early for a thorough examination of?the impact on wildlife, including the many threatened species in the fires’ path.


Does this qualify as unprecedented? Plenty of experts say yes, but not all politicians and newspaper columnists are convinced. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the fires were severe, but also adopted a familiar line: Australia has always had bushfires. That’s true. But a key question is whether it has always had bushfires like this.


David Bowman, director of The Fire Centre at the University of Tasmania, says the most striking thing about this fire season is the continent-scale nature of the threat. “The geographic range, and the fact it is occurring all at once, is what makes it unprecedented,” Bowman says. “There has never been a situation where there has been a fire from southern Queensland, right through NSW, into Gippsland, in the Adelaide Hills, near Perth and on the east coast of Tasmania.”


He says one of the less explored issues, though it has begun to receive some attention in recent days, is the economic impact of having prolonged fires that affect so many Australians. “You can’t properly run an economy when you get a third to a half of the population affected by smoke, and the media completely focused on fires,” he says.


There are also fears critically endangered Wollemi pines have burned in the fires tearing through the Blue Mountains. They were thought extinct until discovered by bushwalkers in 1994. Their whereabouts had been kept secret from the public to keep them safe.


Authorities say the smoke that has smothered Sydney, Canberra and other centers and towns in recent weeks has produced pollution up to 11 times greater than the hazardous level for human health. In Sydney, the air pollution has been hazardous for at least 30 days.


The explanation should be familiar by now: greenhouse gas emissions do not cause bushfires, but they play a demonstrated role in increasing average and particularly extreme temperatures and contribute to the extraordinarily dry conditions afflicting eastern Australia.

Scientists cite the near absolute lack of moisture in the landscape as a key reason the fires have been so severe.

Multiple studies, here and overseas, have found the climate crisis is lengthening the fire season.




Source article: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/lang/archives/2020/01/07/2003728808



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