UN warns world to brace itself for more extreme wildfires in 2022

UN warns world to brace itself for more extreme wildfires in 2022

The UN has warned the world to brace itself for more extreme wildfires in 2022 and over the next decade.

The organisation cited global warming as one of the main causes, whilst warning that governments are ill-prepared for the death and destruction such extreme fires leave in their wake.

A recent report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) stated that even the most ambitious efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions will not prevent a dramatic surge in the frequency of extreme fire conditions.

The report said: “By the end of the century, the probability of wildfire events similar to Australia’s 2019–2020 Black Summer or the huge Arctic fires in 2020 occurring in a given year is likely to increase by 31–57 percent.”

The rising planet temperature is affecting the landscape and more extreme weather means stronger, hotter and drier winds to fan the flames. Such wildfires are burning where they have always occurred, and are flaring up in unexpected places such as drying peatlands and thawing permafrost.

Last year, forests going up in flames emitted more than 2.5 billion tonnes of planet-warming CO2 in July and August alone, equivalent to India’s annual emissions from all sources, the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) reported.

Compiled by 50 top experts, the report called for a rethink on how to tackle the problem.

“Current government responses to wildfires are often putting money in the wrong places, investing in managing fires once they start rather than prevention and risk reduction,” said UN Environment chief Inger Andersen.

“We have to minimise the risk of extreme wildfires by being prepared.”

Economic damages in the United States — one of the few countries to calculate such costs — have varied between $71 to $348 billion (63 to 307 billion euros) in recent years, according to an assessment cited in the report.

Major blazes can also be devastating for wildlife, pushing some endangered species closer to the brink of extinction. Nearly three billion mammals, reptiles, birds and frogs were killed or harmed, for example, by Australia’s devastating 2019-20 bushfires, scientists have calculated.