In Australia an area about the size of South Korea, roughly 25.5 million acres, has burned. More than 1 billion mammals, birds, and reptiles likely lost their lives in the blazes, according to one estimate from the University of Sydney. Around 25,000 koalas were feared dead on Kangaroo Island. Eight thousand koalas, a third of all the koalas in New South Wales, are believed to have perished, and about 30 percent of the koalas’ habitat has also been wiped out. The devastation only adds to existing pressures on Australia’s unique ecosystems. The continent is home to 244 species that are not found anywhere else. The region also has the highest rate of native mammals becoming extinct over the past 200 years.
The more land burns, the more carbon dioxide gets released into the atmosphere, and the more trees — which act as natural carbon sinks — disappear. Already, Australia's fires have released 350 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. That's roughly 1% of the total global carbon emissions from 2019.