An unprecedented amount of CO2 emissions was released as a result of wildfires. According to the EU’s climate monitoring agency Copernicus, fires in Europe (the EU and the UK) this summer released over six billion tons (megatonnes) of carbon emissions into the atmosphere – the largest number since 2007.
Overall, they have burned in Europe more than 508,260 hectares from June to September, compared to a 2006-2021 average of 215,548 hectares for the same period. Spain was one of the countries that lost the most – almost 300,000 hectares since the start of the year.
The highest figure of carbon emissions released due to wildfires in the last 15 years can be attributed to the flammability of the vegetation that has increased due to climate change.
“The scale and persistence of the fires in the southwest of Europe … was extremely concerning throughout the summer,” said Mark Parrington, scientist and wildfire expert at Copernicus.
Around the world, wildfires have recorded an increase as well. An outbreak of thunderstorms caused extreme forest fires in Alaska in May that continued burning areas through June and early July.
The Amazon region has seen a clear increase in the first week of September – which has resulted in a large area of smoke over South America. The state of Amazonas in the northern region of Brazil, registered the second-highest fire emission totals for July-August of the last 20 years – the highest was in 2021.
According to scientists, increased wildfires not only undermine the efforts to reduce carbon emissions, but the fire smoke itself also produces air pollutants that exacerbate health problems. Wildfire smoke is estimated to cause over 339,000 premature deaths a year across the globe.
Record highs of global emissions released due to climate change consequences like forest fires are a serious threat to populations. The scale of damages from climate change is set to outrun all previous estimates and mitigating them has never been more urgent.