Is climate change increasing wildfires?

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Foto: Colourbox/FAU

IPCC info bites

Human-caused climate change increases wildfire by intensifying its principal driving factor – heat. The heat of climate change dries out vegetation and accelerates burning.

Analyses show that human-caused climate change has driven the increases in burned area in the forests of western North America.

Across the western U.S., higher temperatures caused by human-caused climate change doubled burned area from 1984 to 2015, compared with what would have burned without climate change. The additional area burned, 4.9 million hectares, is greater than the land area of Switzerland.

Elsewhere, deforestation, fire suppression, agricultural burning, and short-term cycles like El Niño can exert a stronger influence than climate change. In Australia, much of the southeastern part of the continent has experienced extreme wildfire years, but analyses suggest that El Niño, a heat phenomenon that cycles up and down periodically, is more important than long-term climate change.

Many forests and grasslands naturally require fire for ecosystem health but excessive wildfire can kill people, destroy homes, and damage ecosystems.

How does nature benefit human health and well-being?

Stamm und Wurzeln eines Baumes.
Bild: Colourbox

Human health and well-being are highly dependent on the “health” of nature. Studies show that being in direct contact with natural environments has direct positive effects on well-being, health and socio-cognitive abilities. The loss of species and biodiversity under climate change will reduce natural space, decrease biodiversity and in turn, decrease human-well-being and health worldwide.

IPCC Report info bites

About the World Climate Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. In their latest report, published in late February, scientists outline the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place. One of the report’s main authors is Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kiessling, head of the Chair of Palaeontology.

Wolfgang Kießling on the World Climate Report