Over 14 Million Acres Already Burned in Worst Wildfire Season in Australia's History

Conditions are expected to worsen throughout the weekend, and the season's just begun.

To put the devastation of Australia's wildfires in perspective, the 14.5 million acres burned is more than triple the area of 2018's Paradise and Camp fires; it's practically the size of West Virginia.

The toll so far includes 18 deaths, more than 1,000 homes destroyed, and an estimate of nearly half a billion native animals killed; scientists fear that among them are species that may have been wiped out completely.

On New Year's Day, a plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe made the air in Australia's capital city Canberra the most polluted in the world. And wildfire season's only just begun.

Bracing for a weekend of worsened conditions, a state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales and a state of disaster in Victoria. Citizens have been advised to evacuate immediately.

Meanwhile, the Australian government is largely ignoring these effects of climate change. As the world's largest exporter of both coal and gas, these industry lobbies have a stronghold on government policy. In Tasmania, pending legislation would allow environmental protestors to be jailed for up to 21 years for demonstrating.

According to The New York Times, "while the fires were exploding in mid-December, the leader of the opposition Labor Party went on a tour of coal mines expressing his unequivocal support for coal exports. The prime minister, the conservative Scott Morrison, went on vacation to Hawaii."

Read more on The New York Times.