United Nations: Rate of wildfires could increase up to 50% within the century
Experts say the rate of climate change induced wildfires could increase up to 50% by end of the century
A report by the United Nations Environment Program warns that the frequency of severe wildfires will increase up to 31% to 57% by the end of the century.
- The news: A report done by over 50 experts concluded that wildfires will become more frequent in approaching decades due to several factors, including climate change, as found in the study by the U.N. Environment Program.
- Extreme weather as a result of climate change leads to hot, high-speed winds which fuel wildfires.
Flashback: Wildfires in recent years, such as those in the American West and Australia, have grown in intensity over time, according to The New York Times. While some wildfires are natural and beneficial to the ecosystem, other large-scale fires can be detrimental to the health of the environment.
What is causing the increase?: “Human-induced climate change is increasing the incidence of wildfires around the globe,” the U.N. report reads.
- Climate change, land-use and population change are contributing to the change in fire regimes (wildfire patterns), according to the U.N. report. Increased drought, high air temperatures, low humidity, lighting, and strong winds are factors brought about by climate change, creating an environment where a wildfire thrives.
Why is this important? : Wildfires can affect the global carbon cycle. When a fire burns organic material that is full of terrestrial carbon, such as peatlands and rainforests, large amounts of CO2 are released into the air. This accelerates the carbon cycle, leading to global warming, reports the World Resources Institute.
- Wildfire smoke can cause respiratory harm. As has been seen in Utah, wildfires affect the quality of air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wildfire smoke contains particulates and toxic combustion products which have led to “detrimental cardiovascular impacts,” according to the U.N. study.
- Wildfires are a threat to wildlife. A wildfire can cause mortality and destroy the habitat of wild animals, states National Geographic. The U.N. study states that there is evidence of wildfires pushing some animals and plants closer to extinction. There is also a threat to natural bodies of water posed by the contaminants coming from wildfires.
What can be done? The U.N. urges policymakers to be aware of the effects climate change has on the increasing wildfires, U.N. Environment Program. Adhering to the standards of the Paris Agreement (An agreement between the United Nations with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to slow the process of global warming), improving firefighter safety, integrating traditional and Indigenous fire management practices, and empowering local authorities are all actions that can be taken to decrease threats posed by wildfires.