The year 2020 isn’t remembered fondly, only saved by the memes. Starting with a fire in the Australian forests, it continued to spew unfortunate global headlines both for wildlife and our civilized communities.
Or did it? Perhaps 2020 wouldn’t take much of the blame if we knew about the months and years preceding some of its events, which reveal a long history of climate change.
To be fair, along with the foreboding forecasts, there have been efforts to keep up with the changing atmosphere. In small ways, Americans have been fighting climate change by supporting low-carbon-footprint diets, particularly in Portland, Oregon, which was recognized by PETA as its top vegan-friendly city in 2016.
Fighting Climate Change
More alternative energy sources have been built across states, and not just in the metro. Idaho, which has preserved much of its agricultural resources, consistently improves its renewable energy sources, from a solar power capacity of 0.1 MV in 2009 to 565.78 in 2019.
The UN will also push through with its Climate Change Conference this November, which was postponed last year due to the pandemic. Aptly enough, 2021 may just be the best year to be more aggressive with fighting climate change, considering that the clearer skies we’ve seen during strict lockdown gave us time to recover. UN Secretary General António Guterres even told BBC that it could be a .
So to better help us with our cause, here’s a look at how a series of happenings started and persisted before finally converging in the eventful 2020.
June 2019: Australia’s Bushfire Season Starts Before August
As early as June 2019, Tony Johnstone, Queensland Fire and Emergency Service acting director for rural fire, warned everyone of an earlier outbreak. “In Queensland, the bushfire season normally starts in August—but there [had] already been erratic fires […] around Warwick and Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt, and around Longreach in the state’s central west,” Johnstone said. More fires sprung in September and November, and continued to 2020, until rains in January and February provided some respite for the firefighters.
Australia’s natural climate makes it no stranger to forest fires. But its report of persistent dry and warm conditions in the 2019 Northern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook saw the biggest fears of 2000’s climate predictions. The Garnaut Climate Change Review previously stated that “recent projections of fire weather suggest that fire seasons will start earlier, end slightly later, and generally be more intense. This effect increases over time, but should be directly observable by 2020.”
Decades of Destructive Cultivation Contribute to Forest Fires in the Philippines
Filipino farmers have a traditional system of cutting and burning trees for cultivation known as “kaingin.” For years, this had been deemed abandoned, but farmers are going back to this method, as well as charcoal making and illegal logging due to a lack of jobs, according to Advocacy Officer Billie Dumaliang of Masungi Georeserve. She suspects any of that almost reached their conservation area in April 2020. In their Facebook page, the Masungi Georeserve team quoted FAO reports citing human activities as the major cause of wildfires in the Philippines.
2018: Cyclone Mekunu Provided Breeding Ground for a Locust Infestation
Locusts are grasshoppers that are usually solitary, except for their swarming phases. As herbivores, they do not attack humans, but they can harm us by destroying crops and other vegetation.
Locusts love heavy rain, and the 2018 cyclone Mekunu produced more than enough precipitation for the sands of Rub’ al Khali. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States reported that this allowed at least three generations of unprecedented breeding left undetected until much later. These moved to the Central and Eastern regions during the first quarter of 2019. Two generations spread to the Horn of Africa and the Indo-Pakistan border. The report further noted that more swarms were created due to the heaviest monsoon rains in 25 years.
As 2019 ended, swarms have already spread to Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen, and their neighboring countries. Meanwhile, by 2020, another swarm, separate from these locust groups, formed in South America.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization secured $111 million to fight the locusts, but the efforts were stalled due to travel restrictions. This further delayed pesticide distribution.
The World Bank pointed to climate change as “the key driver of the outbreak.” Safe and effective use of pesticides is necessary to prevent locust swarms, but unprecedented weather created a new kind of ecosystem harder to curtail. This brings us to the clichéd but proven phrase: prevention is better than cure. Natural calamities cannot always be predicted, but science is clear on humans’ contribution to the planet’s scars. Now that we’re informed, we can do more.