Forest fires will increase by 30% by 2050 and 50% by the end of the century as a result of the climate crisis.

Global warming, droughts, and changes in land use will cause fires even in areas that have never experienced such events, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme, which urges governments to implement prevention and preparedness strategies that incorporate ancestral knowledge.

Climate change will increase the risk of devastating forest fires around the world in the coming decades, according to a study released Wednesday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and GRID-Arendal, a Norwegian non-profit environmental organization.

The publication refers to the phenomenon as a global wildfire crisis, predicting that such disasters will increase by 30% by 2050 and by more than 50% by the end of the century.

Global warming, droughts, and land-use changes are cited as drivers of this human-caused disaster threat by the report’s more than 50 scientists from around the world.

According to the analysis’ forecasts, no part of the planet will be safe from forest fires, which could even affect the Arctic and other areas that were previously unaffected.

Modification of strategy

To address this threat, the study’s authors advocate for a radical shift in government strategies based on prevention, preparedness, and adequate budget allocation.

“We must improve our preparedness to reduce the risk of wildfires: we must invest more in reducing fire risk, collaborate with local communities, and strengthen the global commitment to combat climate change,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

According to the study, wildfires disproportionately affect the world’s poorest countries, with long-term consequences that impede their progress toward sustainable development and exacerbate social inequalities.

The costs of rebuilding after a fire are frequently out of reach for low-income countries, according to the paper.

A forest firefighter works to extinguish it. (Image from a file)

Furthermore, smoke from wildfires has a direct impact on people’s health, causing respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

In terms of nature, wildfires have wreaked havoc on wildlife and natural habitats, bringing some animal and plant species perilously close to extinction. For example, it is estimated that the 2020 Australian bushfires wiped out billions of domestic and wild animals.

Scientists emphasize that bushfires and climate change exacerbate each other, and that climate change worsens bushfires through increased drought, high air temperatures, low relative humidity, lightning, and strong winds, resulting in warmer, drier, and longer fire seasons.

Wildfires, in turn, exacerbate climate change by destroying sensitive, carbon-rich ecosystems like peatlands and rainforests, turning landscapes into tinderboxes and making it more difficult to halt rising temperatures.

Understanding is essential for prevention.

The urgency of better understanding wildfire behavior is emphasized in the report, as prevention requires a combination of science-based data and monitoring systems, indigenous knowledge, and strong regional and international cooperation.

In terms of indigenous peoples’ practices, they highlight, for example, arson in some parts of Africa to clear vegetation and prevent more severe and less controllable forest fires. For centuries, communities in many places have managed the land in this manner. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) advocates for the incorporation of this type of traditional knowledge into fire policies.

It also urges governments to adopt a formula that allocates two-thirds of the fire budget to planning, prevention, preparedness, and recovery, with the remaining third of resources going to fire response.

Currently, wildfire response receives more than half of the budget, while planning and prevention receive less than 1%.

Firefighters

The publication highlights the dangers that firefighters face on the job and calls for higher international standards to ensure their safety and health.

According to UNEP’s executive director, firefighters and emergency service workers who risk their lives to fight wildfires “need more support.”

This includes raising awareness of the dangers of smoke inhalation, minimizing life-threatening traps, and ensuring that they have access to adequate hydration, nutrition, rest, and recuperation between active shifts.

The study is being released in the week leading up to the United Nations Environment Assembly’s resumed session in Nairobi, Kenya, which will be attended by representatives from 193 countries.

 

Article Author Gerluxe

Image: wikimedia