Climate and fires: Severe wildfires can increase significantly

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Severe wildfires can increase significantly

Firefighters fighting a forest fire.  Bushfires continue to threaten the small railway town of Hester in southwestern Australia, while multiple fires are raging across the state.  +++ Radio image dpa +++

Firefighters battle a forest fire in Western Australia

Source: picture alliance / dpa / DEPARTMENT OF FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES / AAP

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Intense bushfires like the one in Australia are not a direct result of global warming. That’s what experts say in a report. However, conditions are changing – and the number of fires will increase sharply in the future.

FifthDevastating bushfires like those recently in Australia and California will increase dramatically due to climate change, according to a United Nations report — and the world is not well prepared for these disasters. “Even with the most ambitious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the planet will experience a significant increase in the frequency of conditions conducive to severe fires,” said the UN Environment Program report released on Wednesday.

Unep shared the report with her Norwegian partner Environmental Institute GRID-Arendal, developed. The 50 experts involved in the creation make it clear that intense wildfires such as 2019/2020 in Australia or 2020 in the Arctic are not a direct result of global warming. But more frequent and more intense phases of drought and drought caused by climate change will create conditions especially favorable for fires.

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Even if global warming could be limited to two degrees in the coming decades compared to the pre-industrial era, the report’s authors assume an increase in particularly intense fires of nine to 14 percent by 2030. They expect an increase of 20 to 33 percent by 2050. By the end of the century, 31 to 52 percent more fires are expected to be particularly dangerous—an increase of roughly a third to more than a half.

The report deals with particularly intense fires, which theoretically occur only once every 100 years. The potential for less severe fires has not been examined, but the authors note that “less severe episodes are likely to increase as well.”

According to the report, already intense fires cause serious damage: the smoke produced is harmful to health, fires pollute the water and destroy the habitats of many species. In addition, wildfires amplify climate change because they release important carbon dioxide with forests2Memory destruction.

Costs are higher than investments

According to the report, in the United States alone, the economic damage caused by wildfires in recent years ranged from 71 to 348 billion dollars (63 to 307 billion euros). Nearly three billion mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians were killed or injured in the 2019/20 bushfires in Australia.

According to the report, the dangers of wildfires cannot be completely avoided. However, humans can take measures to reduce the frequency of such devastating events. Instead, the government’s response to the growing risk of a fire is to “put the money in the wrong place,” explained Unep’s head, Inger Andersen.

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According to the report, the cost of severe wildfires is much greater than the investment in fire prevention and control. The United Nations has demanded that authorities around the world must now invest in prevention. Dead plants on the ground and plants around residential areas should be removed more consistently. According to the report, improving the landscape and limiting activities that facilitate the outbreak of fires will also help.

“We need to reduce the risk of severe fires by being prepared,” Andersen said. This means greater investment in risk reduction, working with local communities, and greater global commitment to combating climate change.

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