The on-going bushfires in Australia have devastated the country. With over 18 million hectares burned as of March 9th 2020, there’s been human fatalities, uncountable animal deaths, biodiversity impacts, air pollution and a lot of trauma. Below is a snapshot of where the fires were on January 3rd, 2020.
This is just what it was like that particular week. Of course, the fires have been going on for countless months now. The relentless fires have taken its toll on the Australian economy too.
Similar to the Coronavirus, there are countless factors to how it has impacted the economy. First and foremost, there’s a direct price tag on amending the burnt infrastructure. Roads, buildings, offices, homes, and many more man-made things have crumbled to the ground, which will need rebuilding. If you’re familiar with the broken window fallacy, you’ll see why the government’s fiscal payments for these repairs are not conducive to a growing economy.
Some experts expect this to “blow a $20bn hole in the economy”. To put into perspective how these bushfires have disjointed the economy from its equilibrium, there were 9,000 insurance claims as of January, which has only grown since then. So not only will insurance companies be paying out (and possible bankruptcies), premiums will rise as a result of this, and the government will be taking a lot of the fiscal responsibility.
Prior to the fires getting serious in September, the Australian economy was already at a stale 1.7% growth. The fires have disproportionately affected both tourism and agriculture, as you’d expect. Both of these industries are extremely important to the Australian economy, with Australia being a hugely popular holiday place, as well as their strong exports in agriculture.
Now, agriculture is forced to produce higher yields but with fewer resources. The only way forward for them now is innovation — to be more accurate in their agronomic forecasts and risk assessments, and to be more efficient despite having their hands tied.
They say all press is good press, but this won’t be the case for tourism. Instead of adverts for white-sand beaches and surfing, the rest of the world has just watched one of the longest apocalyptic “movies” they’ve ever seen. Day in, day out, the world was fed images of smoke, animal deaths and evacuations. This image will take some overcoming, as well as the current air pollution. This is a serious amount of imported money that will be lost throughout 2020, and perhaps even in the forthcoming years.
Whilst the national economy suffers, some local economies will undoubtedly suffer more than others. Cities in the south-east, from Bairnsdale up to Wollemi National park were some of the most affected areas, along with the north coast. For example, Victoria and New South Wales saw over 16 million acres burned. The recovery time for these places will be years, and that’s if it doesn’t happen again next summer.
In New South Wales, the fires have finally been extinguished. 28 lives were lost as of March 2020, over 3,000 homes were destroyed and up to a billion animals have been displaced or killed. But to round off what has been a devastating natural disaster and troubling economic times, the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t come at a worse time.
With a stage three response of locking down the country, business, consumerism and productivity are looking like it will further slow down. Tourism certainly isn’t going to pick up after the fires now, with the borders being relatively closed. The government purse strings are tested again, not only from recovering from the fires now, but also the $11+ billion fiscal package designed to limit the damage due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Fortunately for Australia and for restoring faith in this world, firefighter experts from around the world came to lend a hand. Whilst the Australian fires did not bring on the Indonesian bushfires, the problem is shared. Indonesia also suffered from global warming and dry weather with their own fires.
It does affect neighbouring countries, though. The sky in New Zealand turned completed orange in January, despite them being over a thousand miles away. This goes to show that the symptoms of global warming are felt by more than just Australia — it’s critical for the whole globe. The smoke migrated, and it caused problems for asthmatics over 1,200 miles away.
The fires have also heated up the ocean surrounding Australia. This is conducive to rising sea levels, which causes flooding (which many neighbouring countries do suffer from, even if not directly from these fires). The ocean has since filled with ash, which could affect the phytoplankton, thus interfering with the oceans food system.