Is there any doubt about the connection between recent fires and climate change? Let’s put it out.
Even as climate change is happening all around us, what is sometimes referred to as the phsycological paradox of climate change remains. Scientific models and reports have gotten stronger, yet public interest dwindles. Some will continue to deny the impacts of climate change even as we come face to face with them.
Looking at the US, there has been a clear trend in increased area burned by wildfires since the 1980s. Both the largest wildfires and the warmest temperatures on record have occurred in western US in the past 15 years. The largest three fires are still burning. Already more than twice the area burnt last year.
That’s just the US, for a worldwide overview, Global Forest Watch keeps track of all fires happening now across the globe.
Some sceptics may claim that fires were much worse in the earlier part of the century. However, as pointed out by the US National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in an article by carbonbrief, comparing modern fire area to earlier estimates is “not accurate or appropriate, because we didn’t have a good way to measure (earlier data).” “…We didn’t have a system to estimate area burned until 1960, but it was really refined in 1983.”
Also, back in the earlier part of the century, there were no large-scale firefighting organizations the way that there are today. Therefore, fires could burn through larger areas before being extinguished. In 2017, a total of 2.9 billion US dollars was spent on wildfire suppression according to the NIFC.
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