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Lessons from Australian bushfire, by environmentalists


Although Nigerian climate may not be prone to extremes as Australians’, where gargantuan bushfires raged across the continent, environmentalists said Nigeria has a lot to learn from the incidence. The Australian fire, which killed at least 28 people, destroying at least 17.9 million acres and more than 3,000 homes since September has being a subject of international climate change discourse among environmentalists.

Australia’s bushfires and the conditions behind them are alarming and unprecedented, but not unexpected. Australia is warming faster than the global average due to climate change, and parts of the country are getting drier.The blazes got going in 2019, which the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has now confirmed was the country’s hottest and driest year on record. This rising heat and aridity helped create the conditions for the massive blazes torching the country.

The choking smoke from these blazes has also caused a health crisis and has literally circled the world. “It’s always been a variable continent in terms of weather,” said Mark Howden, director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. “What we saw last year and are seeing this year to date I think both reflect that historical variability but with added components chucked in because of climate change, and that’s generated temperatures well beyond what we have seen before.”


As the climate changes, the swings in temperature and precipitation are poised to become more vast and frequent. While many of the factors that are driving the vacillating patterns of temperature and rainfall are unique to Australia, other parts of the world may soon face their own volatile weather. So it’s important to understand how it occurs and how it’s changing in the land down under.

Experts said several factors contribute to Australia’s notoriously shifty climate. Australia’s landmass is large enough to include climate regions from the tropics in the north to deserts in the middle to temperate regions in the south.The continent is also situated between the Antarctic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. Along Australia’s coasts, these oceans act like buffers and help moderate the climate in cities like Sydney.

But Australia is a continent, which means it experiences continentality, a phenomenon where inland areas far from water experience a wider temperature range than the coasts.For Nigeria and other African countries, it may be the beginning of environmental rebirth as noted by an environmentalist and Senior programme manager, Fight Against Desertification (FADE), Bunmi Obanawu.

According to her, the Australian bush fire is clear examples of how climate change is a factor at making natural disasters go from bad to worse. She stressed that the annual occurrence of bush fires that Australians experience was exacerbated by the persistent heat and drought of last year.“Even in countries with advanced emergency procedures and progressive environmental policies, we can see the clear toll the bush fire is taking on the nation’s resources. It will take years to recuperate from the damage caused both to humans, animals and plants.

“Nigeria does not stand a chance against natural disasters fuelled by the changing climate if we do not start investing heavily in the environment and adaption measures for certain disasters. We will also need to seriously tackle issues of illegal logging, deforestation and land degradation if we don’t want to be unbearably exposed to the changes caused by global warming”, she added.A lesson to take away from all these, Obanawu said, is for Nigeria and Nigerians to realise that climate change is real and a danger to us even here.

“The government should seriously consider investing in localized state-of-the-art research to understand the changing dynamics and use the findings to create a road map for the nation should such a disaster strike”, she added.Also, the Chairperson of the Friends of the Environment (FOTE), Mrs. Joan Maduka, said although Nigerians are lucky that our own forests are not as dry as theirs but Nigerians should avoid bush burning which is prevalent among farmers across the country.

According to her, the way the climate is changing if we are not careful, we can run into this kind of problem.“ It might not be quite as large because of vegetation in the southern parts of the country but it is possible that once we set fire somewhere it will just continue escalating. So everybody has to be careful”, she said.

The environmentalists also said another reason this sort of fire can happen in Nigeria is if it is arson.“ Luckily we don’t have a lot of that around here where people will just decide to put fire either into people’s property or farms or wherever. There is no such report where we have a lot of arsons around here.

“ Maybe during the political rallies or campaigns this may happen a little bit but it is nothing like what we have in Australia”, she added.On the role of fossil fuel on the fire incident, Mrs. Maduka, said Nigeria is not on the same scale with Australia but warned that efforts must be invested to ensure that explosion resulting from gas flaring, wielding materials and other sources are contained in good time.

“We should preach against the use of forest fire to clear farms, it was very prevalent years ago but that practice is reducing now. “Our governments at different levels should, also look after their fire protection systems because almost every day when there is fire, it is either the fire trucks do not have water or they do not have prevention system or they are not working or available.

“This is not good enough, one should expect that if there is fire any where, our fire fighters must be prepared to move in as fast as possible and this is why some of us are quite worried that a whole market coming down because there is no fire station or fire fighting equipment without any assistance no fire protection”, she added.

Another environmentalist and promoter of Lagos State Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative (LUFASI), Desmond Majekodunmi, said the lesson to learn from the incidence is that one cannot bury his head in the sand and pretends that the problem is not there, just because his head is in the sand does not mean that the problem is not there.

According to him, the leadership in Australia has consistently refused to accept the reality of the climate change problem despite the scientific evidence and even the practical examples. “They refused to accept it because they had invested interest. They refused to tackle the global warming caused by burning fossil fuel.

“No matter how painful it might be, they have to accept the truth.“In Nigeria there seems to be more acknowledgment in the issue of climate change better than the Australia leaders were. Nigerians have signed the treaties, Nigeria has agreed to do things, this year alone, Nigeria has agreed to do one of the most important thing, which is massive tree planting, 25 millions trees is not a small thing and they are practising it and not just talks.


“So, that is very encouraging at least we seemed to be acknowledging the problem more than the Australians but the realities are that it is a fossil fuel fire situation. “Nigerian economy like the Australians is based on fossil fuel. So we have to come to terms with that reality as well. It has to change.

“We have to stop burning the product. We are burning a product that has far more valuable use than just to supply energy. Oil is used for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics. Oil is also used for chewing gum, so many other products not to mention plastics; obviously, we need to use those bio products very reasonably so the burning oil just for so called cheap energy is actually not a good thing to do. The products are far more than that because energy can be supplied from other sources.

According to Majekodunmi, the reason we are burning fossil fuel is that it is so profitable and a cheap energy source but in the long run, it is extremely damaging and we are depriving ourselves of a resource that could be useful for decades and decades to come if we don’t burn it.“Over 60per cent of oil is used for energy which is wrong. So, there is no other way about it.” he added.


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Australian bushfire
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