Gold has a special place in the Australian psyche. The gold rush of the early 1850s helped propel the country’s economy, stimulate its industries and grow its population. Australia is the world’s second largest gold producer and gold remains its third major commodity export. And over the last few years the Australian gold sector has flourished, with record mine production and record gold prices.
But any sense of sectoral optimism is in danger of evaporating as the country struggles to cope with raging bushfires of unprecedented intensity and scale, and what The Sunday Herald recently described as an “absolutely seminal moment” in the country’s history.
The fires in Australia have been raging since last September and the scale of the consequent destruction is hard to comprehend; over 6 million hectares of land and thousands of homes have burned, dozens of people and over a billion animals have died, and several species of flora and fauna will likely be pushed to extinction. While bushfires are nothing new in Australia, the drier conditions shaped by climate change have undoubtedly created what academics recently described as “a new, more flammable world”.1
There is no more pressing challenge facing humanity than that of climate change. The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere caused by human activity is now wreaking havoc with environmental systems and weather patterns, with often catastrophic consequences.
Last August, we witnessed Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm ever observed in the North Atlantic. And over the last three years, the US has suffered three floods previously classified as once-in-500-year events.
Concurrently, wildfires have raged across the Amazon, Alaska, Siberia and California, but that still did not prepare the world for what has transpired in Australia. Sadly, these fires also further exacerbate climate change – all that carbon literally goes up in smoke!