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Wildfires May Increase by 50% this Century; Here's What You Should Do

Wildfires are likely to grow by up to 14 percent this decade and up to 50 percent this century, according to a report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). However, the research also includes practical suggestions for how communities and governments may respond to the threat.

Shivam Dwivedi
Picture of Wildfires
Picture of Wildfires

According to a new UN research, humans must "learn to live with fire," as global warming and other manmade consequences will result in a considerable increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the coming years.

Wildfires are likely to grow by up to 14 percent this decade and up to 50 percent this century, according to a report released recently by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). However, the research also includes practical suggestions for how communities and governments may respond to the threat.

Findings of UNEP Report:

"Global warming is turning landscapes into tinderboxes," the scientists write, "while more extreme weather means stronger, hotter, drier winds to stoke the fires." "Too frequently, our response is late, expensive, and after the fact, resulting in many countries suffering from a chronic lack of investment in planning and prevention.”

The annual economic consequences of wildfires in the United States are estimated to be between $71 billion and $348 billion. In practically every region of the world, these harms are almost expected to increase rapidly. Rather of reacting to wildfires in a reactive manner, the authors urge that governments invest in proactive methods to avoid wildfires and mitigate their impacts.

"There is undeniably a link between man-made global warming and the growing quantity and intensity of wildfires," said Tim Christophersen, UNEP's Nature for Climate Branch Ecosystems Division chief. "Other factors have a role, but climate change is a major component in forecasts that intense fires may rise by up to 50% by 2100."

Currently, most countries, according to Christophersen, do not have a cohesive national plan in place to effectively reduce the threat of wildfires. He claims that current government responses to wildfires "frequently put money in the wrong place."

According to studies, wildfire smoke inhalation kills an estimated 33,000 people each year. With the exception of Antarctica, every continent was hit by devastating wildfires last year. In addition to the human toll and economic devastation, satellite data shows that wildfires emitted the equivalent of 6,450 megatonnes of CO2 in 2021, which is 148 percent more CO2 than the EU's total fossil fuel emissions in 2020.

In other words, the problem is feeding on itself. And the irony is amplified when wildfires burn down woods that were intended to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

According to the UNEP research, more than half of the money spent on wildfire response is spent on response, with preparation accounting for only 0.2 percent of countries' wildfire expenditures. Redirecting funds and resources toward prevention and preparedness would significantly lessen the damage caused by such fires.

According to Christophersen, prevention funding should account for around a third of a government's wildfire budget, with 1% dedicated to planning, 50% for readiness and response, and "up to 20%" for recovery. A rearrangement like this might drastically lower the number and severity of wildfires. "That is the formula that, in our experience, has the most chance of success,” he said.

One of the report's main recommendations is to learn from and encourage indigenous groups' knowledge about how to reduce the hazards of out-of-control fires. For thousands of years, indigenous Australians have used fire to manage their surroundings, including the use of regulated "slow, cool burns" that help prevent unanticipated major wildfires.

"It's critical to remember that fire isn't always a harmful thing in nature," Christophersen said. "Fire plays an important role in the renewal of many ecosystems, and indigenous societies have used it for millennia." These ancient practices, as well as their long-term observations, can help us choose the optimal course of action for forest management and fire management.

(Source: Forbes)

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