Correction: The previous version of this article failed to provide the full context surrounding what officials and scientists believed to be the cause of the Australian bushfires, leaving readers to believe that arsonists were solely responsible. However, it is believed that natural causes, primarily lightning strikes, are the main culprit. The article has been updated to include that information.
More than 180 people have been arrested in Australia for bushfire-related offenses — including 24 for arson — since November, the New South Wales Police Force announced in a news release Monday.
"Of note, 24 people have been charged over alleged deliberately-lit bushfires, 53 people have had legal actions for allegedly failing to comply with a total fire ban, and 47 people have had legal actions for allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land," the release stated.
Australia has been engulfed with flames since late July as part of the worst wildfire season in decades. The state of New South Wales has experienced the deaths of at least 18 people, the destruction of millions of animals, and the scorching of 4.9 million hectares of land.
The fires prompted two Australian states — New South Wales and Queensland — to declare states of emergency last November. Since then, the fires have continued to worsen, eventually garnering international attention.
Climate change? Maybe not
The news may come as a surprise to viewers of Sunday's Golden Globe Awards or followers of several candidates in the Democratic presidential field — as many on the left have insisted that man-made climate change was most certainly the cause of the Australian bushfire crisis — but the cause of the fires may not be so obvious.
According to BBC News, "fires are usually caused by lightning strikes or accidentally by a spark — but some fires are also started deliberately." The news agency noted that "scientists have long warned that [a] hotter, drier climate will contribute to fires becoming more frequent and more intense," but NSW's announcement portends that arsonists may also share the blame.
Nevertheless, those on the left have been more keen to use the bushfires as a chance to rail against climate change.
Just last week, Democratic candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took to Twitter to rally support for environmental initiatives and decry climate change deniers.
On Sunday, Australia's bushfire crisis took center stage at Hollywood's annual Golden Globe Awards. During the ceremony, several celebrities used their time at the podium to comment on the fires.
While most simply expressed well-wishes to those affected, some actors — such as Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett — were sure to mention climate change.
Crowe, who was absent from the ceremony protecting his property in New South Wales, had actress Jennifer Anniston read a statement for him in his absence.
"Make no mistake: the tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate-change based," Aniston read. "We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is. That way, we all have a future."
Blanchett remarked: "When one country faces a climate disaster we all face a climate disaster. So we're in it together."