In a surprising twist, Australian authorities have made at least 24 arrests in connection to accusations of arson. The authorities are insisting that arsonists are behind the numerous brushfires burning throughout the Outback.
However, some in the Australian government are using these arrests to deny the role climate change played in allowing the conditions for these devastating blazes. Craig Kelly, a liberal member of the Australian House of Representatives, told reporters that “Arson isn’t caused by global warming,” in an attempt to discredit the science behind climate change.
New South Wales Police Force has taken action against 183 people since November in relation to the wildfires. While the flames may have begun with arson, they were able to spread so quickly and cause so much damage due to the extremely hot, dry conditions in the country. According to NSW police commissioner Gary Worboys, the arsonists represent “disgusting behavior.”
In a press release, Worboys insisted, “It’s behavior we won’t tolerate simply because the community will not tolerate it either. People’s homes are their castles, and particularly in these times of devastation it really does go against the grain of Australian people … we will take action.”
So far, 38,000 square miles of land have been burned by the brushfires in Australia. Over 2,000 homes are now little more than cinders, and tragically, 25 people have been killed. What’s more, wildlife conservation groups have stated they believe the flames could drive several species to extinction.
At the time of this writing, it’s estimated that over half a billion animals have been killed by the blazes. Many wildlife experts agree that the damage from the flames will likely be felt for generations, and the Australian wilderness will likely never look the same as it did before the fires.
The blazes are expected to continue raging for months to come. Temperatures in Australia are at all-time highs in recorded history, and wind speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour will be present in New South Wales over the weekend. This is likely to further stoke the flames, spreading more brushfires and increasing the toll on the already-scorched countryside.