Tens of thousands of Australians are fleeing their homes, as hundreds of fires rage across the continent's southeast coast.
How bad is it? With more than a thousand buildings destroyed and 17 deaths since October, it already ranks as one of the worst fire seasons in Australia’s history – and summer there has barely begun.
What’s driving the fires? Summer wildfires are common in Australia, but climate change is making them worse. Spring rainfall has declined in recent decades, even as temperatures rise, extreme heat events become more common and droughts turn more severe. Those forces have helped extend the fire season into spring.
Last year was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, while brutal December heatwaves established new temperature records across the country, setting the conditions for the catastrophic fires now raging.
Ignoring the dangers: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticizedfor failing to act. Indeed, Morrison’s conservative coalition successfully ran on a pro-coal campaign, and he’s since pledged to outlaw forms of climate activism. In recent weeks, he disputed the link between the fires and climate change. Read more here.