WILDFIRES: A CRISIS RAGING OUT OF CONTROL?
Climate change and wildfires mutually reinforce each other, and the fires burning today in many parts of the world are bigger, more intense, and last longer than they used to.
In the Brazilian Amazon alone, forest fires in 2022 are at the highest level they’ve been in 12 years. These ferocious fires destroy vital ecosystems, impact economies and people, threaten property and livelihoods, and release millions of extra tonnes of carbon. The carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from the California wildfires in 2020 was 25% more than California’s annual emissions from fossil fuels. And in summer 2022, carbon emissions from wildfires in the EU and UK reached the highest level since 2007.
If current trends continue, there will be devastating long-term consequences on people, wildlife and the climate.
Humans are responsible for around 75% of all wildfires. That means the solutions are also in our hand.
Regardless of whether fires start naturally or are deliberately set, their overall impact has been growing in recent decades.
By examining three factors – surface burned, frequency and severity – the growing influence of climate change becomes obvious. The carbon released into the atmosphere by the fires further increases global heating, and the vicious circle gets worse. This establishes a positive feedback loop that amplifies the role of extreme hot dry weather in generating more frequent intense fires that in turn generate increased forest carbon emissions.
Ongoing deforestation and rising temperatures are projected to reach levels that would cause even the largest intact forest biomes to switch from net sink to net source of billions of tonnes of sequestered forest carbon.