Top scientists call for PM to do more on climate crisis as UK expert predicts animal victims will be in the trillions
Two wildfires have merged to form a massive inferno in south-eastern Australia, as experts warned some species are likely already to be extinct.
The “megafire” engulfing nearly 1.5 million acres in New South Wales and Victoria was created when lightning strikes and flames fanned by strong winds sparked new blazes.
It is just one of 135 bush fires that have killed at least 28 people and an estimated one billion animals, and damaged or destroyed nearly 3,000 homes since September.
Firefighters tackled the inferno as a leaked report on the emergency to the government of Victoria this week warned that some species are likely to already be extinct.
And a British scientist predicted the tally of animals killed could be in the trillions – far larger even than the half or one billion estimated.
Prof Ben Garrod, an evolutionary biologist at the University of East Anglia, said: “With habitat loss, reduced food availability and possible increased predation, the full effects of these fires will not be felt for months or years to come, but will certainly cause the extinction for some of Australia’s most iconic, fragile and beautiful inhabitants.”
He said there is debate about whether half a billion or a billion animals have been affected, but “by the time we include invertebrates as well as mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, the total will conceivably be in the trillions”.
Australia was home to about 80 per cent of mammals found nowhere else on Earth, and the full effect of the fires may not be felt for months or years to come, he said.
“If we are seeing this level of death, destruction and loss now, what will our planet look like when global temperatures rise by another two or three degrees Celsius? We need to act as an international community and if not now, when?”
At the same time, Australia’s most prestigious scientific organisation has called on Scott Morrison, the country’s prime minister, to do more to tackle the human-induced climate crisis.