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Wildfires

The dangerous blazes of red and orange.

In 2019 and 2020, bushfires raged across Australia, burning over 16 million hectares of bushland and affecting more than 140 million native mammals. It was estimated that 61, 353 koalas were affected by the fires, pushing them even more towards extinction.

Koala holding onto a tree on Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia.

Koala holding onto a tree in Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia.

And this is only just one example of the destruction caused by wildfires.

Wildfires, also called wildland fires, are uncontrolled fires that burn in natural areas, such as grasslands, forests, and brushlands. Often, wildfires are caused by natural phenomenons or human activity.
Based on information given by the government, in Canada, almost half of wildfires each year, on average, are caused by humans. Canada's neighbour, the U.S, has a significantly higher percentage, with 85%. Moreover, human-induced wildfires cause more damage than those induced by nature. Something as innocent as a gathering (such as a gender reveal party) can spark a fire.

Lightning streaks the sky overhead.

Lightning streaks the sky overhead.


With nature-induced wildfires, the most common ignition source, is lightning, specifically hot lightning, which produces extreme heat.
Global warming, according to researchers, creates storms and increases the probability that they will produce lightning. There are roughly 25 million lightning strikes per year now, however it is predicted that this will increase by around 12% per degree of rise in global average air temperature.
Additionally, global warming has been exacerbating heatwaves and drought conditions. In the EU, last year (2022), it was said that fires had burned over three times more land as compared to expectations. The majority of the west of Europe saw a record-breaking heatwave that increased the risk of wildfires. Low amount of rainfall, wind, and high temperatures, together, are the perfect recipe for a wildfire.
Apart from the fact that global warming causes wildfires, wildfires also impact the climate. Wildfires release large amounts of carbon monoxide, small particulate matter, and carbon dioxide into Earth's atmosphere.

A man holds a poster in San Francisco.

A man holds a poster in San Francisco.


It is difficult to control nature's wildfires, however as humans, we can control our own actions. Slowing global warming, along with climate change, is a crucial step towards the prevention of wildfires. Environmental laws and policies, such as forest protection laws, can put a stop to deforestation in areas. Change is happening; many countries have already signed a pledge, promising to end deforestation by 2030, with the COP26 climate summit.
However, we still have more to do.

Endnotes:

Joosse, Tess. “Human-sparked Wildfires Are More Destructive Than Those Caused by Nature.” Science, 8 Dec. 2020, www.science.org/content/article/human-sparked-wildfires-are-more-destructive-those-caused-nature.

Gillett, By Georgina Rannard &. Francesca. “COP26: World Leaders Promise to End Deforestation by 2030.” BBC News, 2 Nov. 2021, www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59088498.

Palumbo, By Jake Horton &. Daniele. “Europe Wildfires: Are They Linked to Climate Change?” BBC News, 21 July 2022, www.bbc.com/news/58159451.

Romps, David M., et al. “Projected Increase in Lightning Strikes in the United States Due to Global Warming.” Science, vol. 346, no. 6211, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Nov. 2014, pp. 851–54. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1259100.https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1259100.

Igini, Martina. “What Causes Wildfires?” Earth.Org, May 2023, earth.org/what-causes-wildfires/#.

Tigue, Kristoffer. “Climate Change Makes Lightning More Likely. Here's Why That's a Big Deal - Inside Climate News.” Inside Climate News, 17 Mar. 2023, insideclimatenews.org/news/12082022/climate-change-makes-lightning-more-likely-heres-why-thats-a-big-deal.

Ollerenshaw, By Tracy. “Wildfires: Why They Start and How They Can Be Stopped.” BBC News, 25 July 2022, www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-41608281.

World Health Organization: WHO. “Wildfires.” www.who.int, Nov. 2019, www.who.int/health-topics/wildfires/#tab=tab_1.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Wildfire | Definition and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 28 June 2023, www.britannica.com/science/wildfire.

Ginis, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Ginis. “Unbearable Loss: Our Koalas Are Endangered.” Australian Geographic, 19 July 2022, www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2022/07/unbearable-loss-our-koalas-are-endangered.

Readfearn, Graham. “‘Devastating’: More Than 61,000 Koalas Among 3 Billion Animals Affected by Bushfire Crisis.” The Guardian, 29 Oct. 2021, www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/07/devastating-more-than-61000-koalas-among-3-billion-animals-affected-by-bushfire-crisis.

National Geographic Society. “Wildfires.” National Geographic, 20 May 2022, education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/wildfires.

Lai, Olivia. “10 Interesting Facts About Wildfires | Earth.Org.” Earth.Org, June 2022, earth.org/10-interesting-facts-about-wildfires.