Climate change exacerbating wildfires, study finds

Man-made climate change has played a major role in fanning wildfires in Canada, a study from the country’s federal government and the University of Victoria has concluded.


Published in the journal Earth’s Future, the study found that British Columbia’s extreme forest fire season in 2017 was made over 20 times more likely thanks to human influence on the climate.

It was concluded that the record 1.2 million hectares burned during that time was seven to eleven times larger than it would have been without human-induced climate change.

Moreover, the researchers warned that extreme forest fires caused by man-made climate change is a trend that is likely to intensify in the future without further action.

“This will have increasing impacts on many sectors, including forest management, public health, and infrastructure,” Environment and Climate Change Canada research scientist, Megan Kirchmeier-Young, said.

The researchers used climate simulations to compare two scenarios, one with realistic amounts of human influence on the climate, including greenhouse gas emissions, and one with minimal human influence.

The findings support a growing opinion within the scientific community that climate change has enhanced the risk of extreme heat, droughts, flooding and wildfire outbreaks.

A report released at the end of 2017 by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) revealed that 41 out of 59 research papers published on the subject since 2015 found a positive link between climate change and extreme weather.

Some detected a rise in frequency, and others an increase in intensity or duration, with only four concluding that climate change has decreased the risk of natural disasters.

In total, the studies involved analysis of 32 recent extreme weather events across every continent except Antarctica, finding the increase in risk caused by climate change ranges from single-digit percentages to 330-fold.

Of this small sample of events, the report concluded that climate change was responsible for approximately 4,000 deaths and around $8bn (£6bn) in economic damage since 2015.

“Just a few years ago it was hard to say more about a storm or heatwave than it was consistent with what science predicts,” ECIU director, Richard Black, said. “Increasingly, scientists are finding that specific events are made more likely or more damaging by climate change.”


Image credit | Shutterstock

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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