13:42 GMT +319 January 2020
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    Australia has been hit by one of the worst bushfire crises in its history; at least 15 people have been killed since September and more than a thousand homes have been destroyed.

    The Grand Tour presenter Jeremy Clarkson has said that fellow Commonwealth member Australia wasn’t meant for human habitation, as deadly wildfires are tearing through vast swathes of the country.

    In a light-hearted column in The Sun, Clarkson suggested that God had created Australia as a remote location to “house all his experiments that had gone wrong”.

    He went on to joke that God is “embarrassed” with humans learning about the creatures he wanted to hide, so he had decided to set fire to the continent. Clarkson – a former climate change sceptic who once told Greta Thunberg to “go back to school” – refused to speculate over what caused the fires but described them as “something biblical”.

    “Thousands of homes have been obliterated. And people are dying,” he wrote. “This has happened before in recent years and there’s no doubt it will happen again. Which means people must accept that Australia isn’t meant for human habitation.”

    “So if you’re reading this down there, please come home. You’ll like it. It never stops raining. And we are better at sport.”

    What’s going on in Australia?

    Bushfire season is nothing new to Australia, with large wooded areas burning there every year due to heatwaves and drought. In the past months, however, the nation has been going through one of its worst fire seasons in memory, aggravated by extreme heat and strong, dry winds from the west.

    The fires have been burning since September, mostly along the stretches of the country’s eastern coast in New South Wales (the worst-hit state) and Victoria.

    Why are the fires so bad?

    There has been no consensus on whether climate change was to blame for the disaster, but some climate scientists have said the worsening climate has played a role because it exacerbates the bushfire weather conditions. This year saw Australia break its temperature record twice: the average maximum temperature hit 40.9 C on 17 December, only to be broken a day later, when the mercury tipped the scales at 41.9 C.

    Scott Morrison’s government has largely dismissed climate change concerns, with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack saying: “We've had fires in Australia since time began.”

    Over four million hectares of land have burned in New South Wales alone – compared with some 900,000 hectares affected in last year’s widely-publicised Amazon fires. At least 19 people have been killed since September and 29 are missing. Some 1,500 homes have been destroyed with mass evacuations being underway, while ecologists estimate that around 480 million animals may have been wiped out already.

    As thousands of volunteers and firefighters are struggling to contain the blazes, authorities warn that the conditions will only get worse over the weekend. Typically the bushfire season in Australia peaks in the hottest summer months (January and February), which means that the fires are likely to continue.

    Tags:
    fire, bushfire, climate change, Greta Thunberg, Australia
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