BILLINGS, Mont. — A warming planet and changes to land use patterns mean more wildfires will scorch large parts of the globe in coming decades, causing spikes in unhealthy smoke pollution and other problems that governments are ill prepared to confront, according to a U.N. report being released Wednesday.
Central India, western Australia and northern Siberia are experiencing more wildfires than ever before. According to a U.N. study, global wildfire risk could grow by more 50%. Environment Program.
Areas once considered safe from major fires won’t be immune, including the Arctic, which the report said was “very likely to experience a significant increase in burning.”
The report concludes that wildfires are expected to increase in the tropical forests of Indonesia and South America’s southern Amazon.
“Uncontrollable and devastating wildfires are becoming an expected part of the seasonal calendars in many parts of the world,” said Andrew Sullivan, with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia, one of the report’s authors.
U.N. researchers discovered that nations spend far too little effort to avoid fires. The report stated that land use changes could make fires more dangerous, including logging, which leaves behind debris and intentionally incendiary clearing of forests for agriculture.
In the United States, officials recently unveiled a $50 billion effort to reduce fire risks over the next decade by more aggressively thinning forests around “hot spots” where nature and neighborhoods collide. The plan has only been funded by President Joe Biden’s administration.
U.N. scientists also called for greater awareness on the dangers of smoke inhalation. These can impact tens to millions annually, as plumes from large wildfires travel thousands of kilometers across international boundaries.