EDITORIAL ANALYSIS–“Why are bushfires raging in Australia?”
The Editorial covers GS paper 3[Disaster and disaster management.]
- News agencies reported that 27 people and up to a billion animals have been killed in Australia’s bushfires and thousands subjected to repeat evacuations.
- The most affected New South Wales (NSW), the country’s most populated state, alone reported a loss of more than 2,000 homes and over 650 damaged.
What is the role of the Indian Monsoon in the Australian fire?
- An extended wet monsoon in India appears to be the reason for delayed monsoon, dryness, drought, and wildfires in Australia.
- The late withdrawal of Indian monsoons: The 2019 June-September monsoon in India started its withdrawal on October 9, against the normal date of September 1, making it the most delayed in recorded history.
- The strongest monsoon in recent years with a surplus of 10% in 2019 — both attributed in part due to the positive phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD).
- Natural causes such as lightning strikes in drought-affected forests.
- The timely arrival of the monsoon rains could have helped Australia contain the spread of the fires but its delay past the normal December-end timeline caused the fire to spread uncontrolled.
What is the interrelation between Indian and Australian monsoons?
- Across the equator, the progression of monsoon winds more or less corresponds to the natural occurrence of troughs and ridges in the same pressure field as seen on the weather map.
- Every trough is matched by a crest somewhere.
- Troughs represent areas of low pressure featuring ascending motion of air and its cooling, clouds, and rain while ridges mean the reverse: high pressure from descending motion of air, dryness, heat, no clouds or rain.
- A positive IOD that persisted longer than usual may have contributed to a delay in the transition of the monsoon trough from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere and onset of the Australian monsoon.
- The risk of additional fires remains high: Australia is only just entering its summer season which means temperatures will peak in January and February, fuelling the fire.
What is the impact on natural resource?
- These disasters can also lead to ‘physical stranding’ of natural resources, rendering them impossible and unprofitable for use, the report said.
- These would adversely affect the CDDCs, especially those who are highly dependent on these resources for their economic well-being.
- Further, in the race to limit greenhouse gas emissions, some natural resources in the energy sector also face the problem of ‘regulatory stranding’.
- The best example is the use of coal, which is increasingly being reduced and eliminated as the primary energy source.
- With renewable energy, especially solar energy, becoming cheaper, there would be a shift towards them. Thus, even without regulatory stranding, the thermal power stations would become economically unattractive, the report said.
What is the way forward?
- China, the world’s largest importer of commodities, has resolved to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in the country’s primary energy consumption, as part of its commitment to climate change mitigation.
- This would impact the exporters of fossil fuels to China, resulting in revenue loss in export market.
- They would also face problems in finding alternative and profitable markets.
- Angola, for example, the largest African exporter of oil to China, would be the hardest hit. In 2017, 47 per cent of its total merchandise export revenue was oil exports to China.
- The 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change in 2017 were all CDDCs, according to the University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) Index.
- The global push for renewable energy creates short- and medium-term opportunities in the mining sectors of CDDCs with large reserves of materials used in clean technologies, such as solar photovoltaic cells, wind turbines and electric vehicle batteries.
The countries, thus, need to relook their diversification potential and depart from their dependence on “one or a narrow range of commodities, which for decades has kept them exposed to the vagaries of international markets and climate change,” stated the report.
A combination of horizontal policies, such as strengthening human capital through investments in education and health, and targeted measures to promote individual sectors, are needed for a successful diversification, it added.