FIRES, FORESTS AND THE FUTURE: A CRISIS RAGING OUT OF CONTROL?
In April 2020, the number of fire alerts across the globe were up by 13% compared to last year – which was already a record year for fires. Persistent hotter and drier weather due to climate change, and other human factors such as land conversion for agriculture and poor forest management are the main drivers behind the increase.
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. If current trends continue, there will be devastating long-term consequences on people, wildlife and the climate.
WWF's report, produced in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), takes a deeper dive into fire trends and what they mean for people and the planet, and sets out recommendations to address the key causes.
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.