A recent report from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has unveiled the significant role of forest fires in escalating global carbon emissions over the past two decades. The study, presented in a blue book, evaluated data from 2001 to 2022 and identified that forest fires have incinerated an average of 46.95 million hectares annually, leading to the emission of 1.54 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Extreme Wildfires: A Key Contributor
The report highlights the phenomenon of extreme wildfires, such as the recent fires in Canada which unleashed over 1.5 billion tons of CO2, as a crucial factor in the rising emissions. These devastating fires have emitted more carbon dioxide than the total emissions from forest fires in the entire North American country over the past 22 years.
China's Progress in Reducing Emissions
While China's forests account for merely 5.4 percent of the world's total forest area, the country has succeeded in keeping its forest fire-related carbon emissions significantly lower than the global average, at only 0.65 percent. Furthermore, China has observed a decreasing trend in its forest fire emissions since 2001, with current annual emissions estimated at around 10 million tons.
Urgency for Global Action
Despite China's progress, the report underscores the urgency for global action to prevent extreme forest fires and calls for international collaboration to tackle the issue of forest fire-induced carbon emissions as part of the broader effort to combat climate change.
A study published in The Lancet Planetary Health underlines that air quality in the Western U.S. deteriorated between 2000 and 2020, with a yearly 55% increase in black carbon concentrations, primarily attributed to wildfires. These fires led to an annual increase of 670 premature deaths in the region.
Furthermore, the Chinese scientists' report, unveiled on December 7 in northeast China’s Shenyang city, has advocated for enhanced prevention and management of extreme forest fires, stronger scientific research, and more international cooperation on fire carbon emissions to address global climate change.
Adding to this, a study from the University of Maryland highlights the adverse effect of wildfires on air quality in the Western United States. Increased emissions from these fires have negated progress made by emissions reduction policies, leading to air pollution and higher mortality rates. Climate change exacerbates wildfires by creating the hot, dry conditions that fuel these fires.
In conclusion, the escalating carbon emissions due to forest fires are a significant concern that requires immediate global attention and action. The need for enhanced prevention and management of extreme forest fires, bolstered scientific research, and increased international cooperation on fire carbon emissions is more crucial now than ever before in the fight against global climate change.