Wildfires likely to increase by a third by 2050, warns UN

Wildfires that have devastated California, Australia and Siberia will become 50% more common by the end of the century, according to a new report that warns of uncontrollable blazes ravaging previously unaffected parts of the planet.

The escalating climate crisis and land-use change are driving a global increase in extreme wildfires, with a 14% increase predicted by 2030 and a 30% increase by 2050, according to a UN report involving more than 50 international researchers.

The findings suggest there should be a radical change in public spending on wildfires. The report said governments were putting their money in the wrong place by focusing on the work of emergency services when preventing fires would be a more effective approach.

Wildfires are becoming an expected part of life on every continent, except Antarctica, destroying the environment, wildlife, human health and infrastructure, according to the report, which was written in collaboration with GRID-Arendal, a non-profit environmental communications centre. The report warned of a “dramatic shift in fire regimes worldwide”.

“From Australia to Canada, the United States to China, across Europe and the Amazon, wildfires are wreaking havoc on the environment, wildlife, human health and infrastructure,” the foreword of the report said, adding that while the situation “is certainly extreme, it is not yet hopeless”.

Although “landscape fires” are essential for some ecosystems to function properly, the report looks specifically at “wildfires”, which it defines as unusual free-burning vegetation fires that pose a risk society, the economy or environment. This month, researchers found global heating could cause “megafires resistant to fire-suppression practices” in southern California. In the US, nearly 3m hectares (7.7m acres) of land were burned by wildfires last year, with blazes becoming increasingly hard to fight.

A woman standing in water up to her shoulders holds her grandchildren as a wildfire rages and turns the sky orange
An Australian family taking refuge from one of the intense wildfires that blazed in…

Read full story at the guardian.com

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