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Climate wildfires globally  america  africa  the artic  siberia | Upload Man-Made

Wildfires Globally: America, Africa, The Artic, Siberia

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by: Sharai Hoekema
wildfires globally  america  africa  the artic  siberia | Upload

It would probably be an understatement to say that the Amazon is not having the best month in its existence. World leaders are tripping over each other to offer their assistance to the troubled Brazilian government, who are still struggling to get a grip on the problem. Meanwhile, hectares and hectares of forestland are catching fire with each passing minute. 

While the Amazon is grabbing headlines with these historically fierce and ferocious fires, it is not the only part of our world that is on fire. Central Africa is facing some of the worst wildfires in its history as well, standing by more or less helplessly as vast areas of savanna are ablaze. And just before those started, we were confronted with the startling headline that the Artic is on fire: with Siberia, a place usually associated with icey cold tundras, now in danger of being burned to the ground.

The one thing that really stands out here is that wildfires are becoming much more severe - and occurring in places where these was previously unheard of. Many are exclaiming that this surely means that the world is ‘on fire’, and climate change is shifting to a higher gear. While this does make for some interest-grabbing headlines, it surely would be too easy to say that climate change has caused these fires. Or wouldn’t it be?

What we can safely do, is turn the matter around. We do know for a fact that wildfires are active contributors to climate change. They kill millions of trees and vegetation, which function as the lungs of the earth. With fewer trees and plants, the earth cannot remove as many harmful emissions from the air - while a wildfire is pretty much the equivalent of a cigarette, releasing a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Think of it as smoking one pack of cigarettes per day at a time when your lung function is decreasing rapidly as the result of a lung disease of sorts.

Wildfires Worldwide: What On Earth Is Going On?

The numbers are - staggering, to say the least. Take Siberia, where some six million acres have been burned to a crisp. Or Alaska, another part of the Artic, which has already lost 2.5 million acres to wildfires. This is a huge loss for the Artic region, which is actually already suffering disproportionally from global warming, warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Potentially catastrophic, especially as this will lead to an increase in lightning - a leading cause for fire.

Here, it seems as if we are entering some sort of vicious circle. As the world gets warmer, wildfires will become more prevalent. And as there are more wildfires, it will leave us with fewer vegetation and higher carbon emissions. This will only serve to speed up global warming, particularly if those wildfires occur in regions - like the Amazon or Arctic - that are powerful catalysts for our climate system. 

Complicating matters even further is the unpredictability and variety of wildfires: there is no easy way to categorise them, nor is there a single root cause that can be identified that causes those fires. Some fires may be set intentionally, to obtain land for agricultural purposes, while others are accidental or perhaps more directly linked to global warming, as in the example of the Artic.

Graph with fires in the world

The Amazon And Indonesia: Intentionally Set Fires

The Amazon, though, is a perfect example of a wildfire that was set intentionally. Brazil is looking to expand its presence on the economic world stage, for instance through its growing export of soybeans and cattle. These agricultural products require more land, which can, in the Brazilians’ minds, easily be obtained by ‘borrowing’ it from the rainforest.

Recommended: Brazil Is Burning For Your Beef: Amazon’s Nature, Our Luxury

New president Jair Bolsonaro is more focused on the economic gains and is, in doing so, rolling back all kinds of measures that were put in place to protect both the environment as well as the indigenous groups living in the forest. All of this has certainly added to fears of further deforestation, and while numbers of the exact amount of forest that has gone to waste are not yet available, fears are that it will only get worse in years to come.

Fire fighters forest Indonesia
Firefighters at a palm oil plantation in Pekanbaru, Indonesia

Southeast Asia is looking at a similar issue. Under pressure to live up to rising demand, more and more agricultural land is ‘forged’ in countries like Sumatra, Borneo and Malaysia. Up to 71% of so-called peat forests have gone to waste in the past three decades, making room for farms producing palm oil. This hazardous practice does not only significantly add to global warming, as peat releases some of the most damaging and polluting gases, it also poses a significant risk to those living around it. Although the government has attempted to call a halt to this trend, it has not really had much of an effect yet: as wildfires are back in full force this year.

Recommended: Amazon’s Fires, Madonna And DiCaprio: Questions & Answers

Wildfires Worldwide: The Arctic

An area that is new to wildfires is the Arctic, including Alaska, Greenland and Siberia. These areas have not dealt with the issue previously, but are facing the worst effects of global warming thus far - with temperatures rising to record heights and plants and vegetation becoming drier than they have ever been. Combined with the increased likelihood of lightning, it is kind of like throwing a lighted match into a stack of hay. 


                                                              The Arctic is on fire, satellite images show
                                                      Wildfires Globally: America, Africa, The Artic, Siberia

 

In total, 180 megatons of carbon dioxide has been emitted as a result from the Arctic wildfires - a massive number that is a multiple of the amount as emitted by entire countries. This is essentially speeding up global warming, the very same thing causing the Arctic to suffer so badly from wildfires and melting glaciers.

California And Africa: The Seasonal Cycle Of Burning

One other category of wildfires are those that are expected and - one could say - even needed. The western part of the United States and Africa, to mention just a few, have a seasonal cycle of fires that actually ‘replenish’ the landscape. Take the lodgepole pines, for instance, a staple tree that requires the wildfire heat to release its seeds. In Sub-Saharan Africa, savanna ecosystems are used to their periodical ‘burn’ and will flourish once again not long after the fires have passed.

This does, however, not mean that we should stand by and idly watch those wildfires destroy large pieces of land. Often, the root cause will be accidental - like someone dropping a cigarette or a campfire gone wrong. This still sets in motion an event that is potentially dangerous and disastrous to the surrounding area, and that is bound to become even more so in years to come as the direct result of climate change. Research has shown that the Californian wildfires are a staggering 500 percent larger than they would have been without it. They are unnecessarily large, so to speak, endangering both human and animal lives in the process.

This World Is On Fire

Trees on fire

While it may feel and look as if our world is quite literally on fire, one should always consider the root cause first. And while some of those huge wildfires that have been raging in the past months have other causes, there are a few that can already be traced back to global warming directly - and all of them can, without a doubt, be considered a major contributor.

Funny how it works: global warming-induced wildfires ending up accelerating that very same phenomenon. Although one might wonder if ‘funny’ really is the most appropriate word.

Recommended: Climate Change And Its Effects Like Droughts: The Heat Is On

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Wildfires Globally: America, Africa, The Artic, Siberia

It would probably be an understatement to say that the Amazon is not having the best month in its existence. World leaders are tripping over each other to offer their assistance to the troubled Brazilian government, who are still struggling to get a grip on the problem. Meanwhile, hectares and hectares of forestland are catching fire with each passing minute.   While the Amazon is grabbing headlines with these historically fierce and ferocious fires, it is not the only part of our world that is on fire. Central Africa is facing some of the worst wildfires in its history as well, standing by more or less helplessly as vast areas of savanna are ablaze. And just before those started, we were confronted with the startling headline that the Artic is on fire: with Siberia, a place usually associated with icey cold tundras, now in danger of being burned to the ground. The one thing that really stands out here is that wildfires are becoming much more severe - and occurring in places where these was previously unheard of. Many are exclaiming that this surely means that the world is ‘on fire’, and climate change is shifting to a higher gear. While this does make for some interest-grabbing headlines, it surely would be too easy to say that climate change has caused these fires. Or wouldn’t it be? What we can safely do, is turn the matter around. We do know for a fact that wildfires are active contributors to climate change. They kill millions of trees and vegetation, which function as the lungs of the earth. With fewer trees and plants, the earth cannot remove as many harmful emissions from the air - while a wildfire is pretty much the equivalent of a cigarette, releasing a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Think of it as smoking one pack of cigarettes per day at a time when your lung function is decreasing rapidly as the result of a lung disease of sorts. Wildfires Worldwide: What On Earth Is Going On? The numbers are - staggering, to say the least. Take Siberia, where some six million acres have been burned to a crisp. Or Alaska, another part of the Artic, which has already lost 2.5 million acres to wildfires. This is a huge loss for the Artic region, which is actually already suffering disproportionally from global warming, warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Potentially catastrophic, especially as this will lead to an increase in lightning - a leading cause for fire. Here, it seems as if we are entering some sort of vicious circle. As the world gets warmer, wildfires will become more prevalent. And as there are more wildfires, it will leave us with fewer vegetation and higher carbon emissions. This will only serve to speed up global warming, particularly if those wildfires occur in regions - like the Amazon or Arctic - that are powerful catalysts for our climate system.   Complicating matters even further is the unpredictability and variety of wildfires: there is no easy way to categorise them, nor is there a single root cause that can be identified that causes those fires. Some fires may be set intentionally, to obtain land for agricultural purposes, while others are accidental or perhaps more directly linked to global warming, as in the example of the Artic. The Amazon And Indonesia: Intentionally Set Fires The Amazon, though, is a perfect example of a wildfire that was set intentionally. Brazil is looking to expand its presence on the economic world stage, for instance through its growing export of soybeans and cattle. These agricultural products require more land, which can, in the Brazilians’ minds, easily be obtained by ‘borrowing’ it from the rainforest. Recommended:  Brazil Is Burning For Your Beef: Amazon’s Nature, Our Luxury New president Jair Bolsonaro is more focused on the economic gains and is, in doing so, rolling back all kinds of measures that were put in place to protect both the environment as well as the indigenous groups living in the forest. All of this has certainly added to fears of further deforestation, and while numbers of the exact amount of forest that has gone to waste are not yet available, fears are that it will only get worse in years to come. Firefighters at a palm oil plantation in Pekanbaru, Indonesia Southeast Asia is looking at a similar issue. Under pressure to live up to rising demand, more and more agricultural land is ‘forged’ in countries like Sumatra, Borneo and Malaysia. Up to 71% of so-called peat forests have gone to waste in the past three decades, making room for farms producing palm oil. This hazardous practice does not only significantly add to global warming, as peat releases some of the most damaging and polluting gases, it also poses a significant risk to those living around it. Although the government has attempted to call a halt to this trend, it has not really had much of an effect yet: as wildfires are back in full force this year. Recommended:  Amazon’s Fires, Madonna And DiCaprio: Questions & Answers Wildfires Worldwide: The Arctic An area that is new to wildfires is the Arctic, including Alaska, Greenland and Siberia. These areas have not dealt with the issue previously, but are facing the worst effects of global warming thus far - with temperatures rising to record heights and plants and vegetation becoming drier than they have ever been. Combined with the increased likelihood of lightning, it is kind of like throwing a lighted match into a stack of hay.   {youtube}                                                               The Arctic is on fire, satellite images show                                                       Wildfires Globally: America, Africa, The Artic, Siberia   In total, 180 megatons of carbon dioxide has been emitted as a result from the Arctic wildfires - a massive number that is a multiple of the amount as emitted by entire countries. This is essentially speeding up global warming, the very same thing causing the Arctic to suffer so badly from wildfires and melting glaciers. California And Africa: The Seasonal Cycle Of Burning One other category of wildfires are those that are expected and - one could say - even needed. The western part of the United States and Africa, to mention just a few, have a seasonal cycle of fires that actually ‘replenish’ the landscape. Take the lodgepole pines, for instance, a staple tree that requires the wildfire heat to release its seeds. In Sub-Saharan Africa, savanna ecosystems are used to their periodical ‘burn’ and will flourish once again not long after the fires have passed. This does, however, not mean that we should stand by and idly watch those wildfires destroy large pieces of land. Often, the root cause will be accidental - like someone dropping a cigarette or a campfire gone wrong. This still sets in motion an event that is potentially dangerous and disastrous to the surrounding area, and that is bound to become even more so in years to come as the direct result of climate change. Research has shown that the Californian wildfires are a staggering 500 percent larger than they would have been without it. They are unnecessarily large, so to speak, endangering both human and animal lives in the process. This World Is On Fire While it may feel and look as if our world is quite literally on fire, one should always consider the root cause first. And while some of those huge wildfires that have been raging in the past months have other causes, there are a few that can already be traced back to global warming directly - and all of them can, without a doubt, be considered a major contributor. Funny how it works: global warming-induced wildfires ending up accelerating that very same phenomenon. Although one might wonder if ‘funny’ really is the most appropriate word. Recommended:  Climate Change And Its Effects Like Droughts: The Heat Is On Did you find this an interesting article or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your own article about sustainability? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage'
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