Thousands of people and wildlife have been displaced by the fires that have been burning since September
The United States has issued a travel warning for those heading to Australia amid the bushfire crisis.
The travel advisory warning was increased from Level 1: Exercise normal precautions, to Level 2: Exercise increased caution. There are four levels, with Level 4: Do not travel, being the most severe.
“Exercise increased caution in Australia due to natural disaster/bushfires. Some areas have increased risk,” the State Department said, pointing out that the current fire season in the country “is one of the worst” in recorded history, and is expected to continue through March or April.
Tourists are encouraged to “consider postponing” trips to the affected areas, but those traveling to places not directly affected by the fires should still exercise caution because of the poor air quality caused by the smoke.
“The catastrophic fires in Australia are the latest example of the very real and very urgent consequences of climate change,” Obama, 58, wrote on Twitter on Thursday, sharing a New York magazine article that criticized the “global apathy” toward the ongoing crisis.
“It’s on us to stay focused and protect the one planet we’ve got for the next generation,” Obama added, saying that “even with problems of this magnitude, each of us can still find a way to make change.”
Bob Deans of the Natural Resources Defense Council told PEOPLE Wednesday that climate change “sets the stage for making [the fires] more devastating.”
“Because of hotter, drier weather,” Deans said, “we are seeing the fire season starting sooner, lasting longer and becoming more devastating.”
“Much of Australia has experienced record heat,” he said. “December 17 was the hottest day on record nationally in Australia.”
Deans called the fires “a widening crisis,” calling it a “dire” situation that “points to the global crisis we’re facing.”