News Excerpt
Recently, the catastrophic Australia’s bushfires have razed more than 10.3 million hectares of land, billions of animals have been killed and thousands are subjected to repeat evacuations as the unpredictable fires spread over large areas.

•    An infrequent warming over the Antarctica has soared temperatures in the South Pole by more than 40 degrees Celsius and it is driving record-breaking warm temperatures in Australia. This rare phenomenon, known as sudden stratospheric warming (SSW).
•    SSW occurs when rapid warming begins high up in the stratosphere. The rapid heating resulted into dry and windy conditions. It has increase the fire threat in a number of regions.
•    The prolonged blaze this year has coincided with Australia’s harshest summer. Parts of the country has recorded their highest temperature in December.
•    Australia’s climate has warmed by just over 1 degree Celsius since 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.
•    This has led to more rainfall in northern Australia but created drought-like conditions in the more densely populated southeast region.

Major Threats from Bushfire
    Smoke Pollution is one of the major threat.
    Plumes of black carbon which is very harmful to human health and climate change
    Bushfire can create their own weather i.e., they can drive thunderstorms, increasing the risk of lightning strikes and further fires.
    Survival of endangered species like dunnart - a mouse-like marsupial, black glossy cockatoo etc, on the island will become difficult.
    The fires have also caused a drop in the bird, rodent and insect populations. These creatures are the building blocks of the ecosystem and the fall in their population is bound to have long-term impacts.
    The fires impacted the wine industry, household and economy at large scale.

    Australia is in the midst of a prolonged drought, there is strong evidence to indicate that nearly all the drivers of the extraordinary heat and dryness in Australia has led to these unprecedented forest fires, and are directly linked to the global climate change.
    This problem has been compounded by the presence of one of the strongest-ever positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) events.
    Fires are actually a part of Australia’s ecosystem. Many plants depend on fire to cycle nutrients and clear vegetation. For instance eucalyptus trees in Australia depend on fire to release their seeds, but extreme weather conditions have turned something familiar into abnormal.
    Australia is home to nearly 250 animal species, some of them are endemic like the koalas and kangaroos. The climate induced fires will aggravate this situation and affects the various ecosystem irreversibly.

Criticism of Australia’s Climate Policy
    One-third of global coal exports come from Australia, accounting for 7% of global carbon emissions.
    The country is the largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas in the world, and the energy sector is an important employer here.
    Present government has defended the country’s coal industry despite criticism from environmentalists.
    Australia has also invited scorn for counting carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol instead of making new reductions to meet its emissions targets.

What Needs to be Done?
    Farming practices: The potentially practicable recommendations from the research regarding farming practices to reduce bushfire risk include:Strategically located firebreaks, Cutting and baling paddocks for hay or straw, Harvest management to reduce stubble height, Post-harvest stubble management.
    Fire access tracks and firebreaks: Fire access tracks and firebreaks should be established according to the level of bushfire risk, the need for property and natural asset protection and the management of primary production. A zoned approach should be undertaken to prioritise bushfire management actions and should be undertaken within the scope of the Bushfire Management Committee plan.
    Harvest management: The reduction of stubble height to about 10cm to 15 cm during harvesting should be considered to reduce the risk of a spread of a bushfire. The use of straw choppers or spreaders on headers will also hasten the decomposition of crop residues.
    Stubble management:Post harvest stubble management, such as grazing, rolling, chaining, harrowing or slashing can significantly reduce the risk of a bushfire spreading. In addition, it may help with snail management, avoids environmental issues associated with burning stubble and it may make seeding easier.
    Haystack management: Haystack fires have a range of causes and they can spread quickly into the surrounding area and may initiate a bushfire if they are not managed appropriately.
    Vehicles, plant and equipment management: Farmers need to consider the risk of fire before grinding, welding, slashing, mowing, or driving vehicles or plant through dry grass, pastures or crops. Driving vehicles with catalytic converters through dry vegetation is particularly hazardous.

Way Forward
In a rapidly changing climate, land management requires a long-term adaptive strategy, underpinned by sound analysis and research, supporting laws and policies, with sufficient funding and human resources. Bipartisan political support and leadership continuity are needed to sustain it.
Note: For more details on forest fires and their mitigation and control measures, please refer to KSG Current Connect, August 2019- Page number- 65

The Indian Ocean Dipole
    The Indian Ocean Dipole - often called the "Indian Niño" because of its similarity to its Pacific equivalent - refers to the difference in sea-surface temperatures in opposite parts of the Indian Ocean.
    Temperatures in the eastern part of the ocean oscillate between warm and cold compared with the western part, cycling through phases referred to as "positive", "neutral" and "negative".
    The dipole's positive phase in 2019 - the strongest for six decades - means warmer sea temperatures in the western Indian Ocean region, with the opposite in the east.
    The result of this unusually strong positive dipole this year has been higher-than-average rainfall and floods in eastern Africa and droughts in south-east Asia and Australia.
    Extreme climate and weather events caused by the dipole are predicted to become more common in the future.

Forest Fires and disaster management, Amazon Forest Fires, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

    Hydrochlorofluorocarbons, commonly known as HCFCs, are a group of man-made compounds containing hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine and carbon.
    They are not found anywhere in nature.
    HCFC production began to take off after countries agreed to phase out the use of CFCs in the 1980s, which were found to be destroying the ozone layer.
    Like CFCs, HCFCs are used for refrigeration, aerosol propellants, foam manufacture and air conditioning.
    Unlike the CFCs however, most HCFCs are broken down in the lowest part of the atmosphere, and pose a relatively lower risk to the ozone layer.
    Unfortunately, HCFCs are also very potent greenhouse gases, despite their very low atmospheric concentrations, measured in parts per trillion (million million).