Since the early 1990s and even before, climate experts have been trying to warn the world against the continued environmental pollution. They have been warning the world that a day would come when human beings will suffer the wrath of Mother Nature due to the continued environmental pollution and plunder of natural resources. Since the beginning of 2020, massive wildfires have been slowing engulfing most parts of the U.S., Australia, and Siberia. The gigantic wildfires have already sent hints of how climate change threatens to destroy ecosystems around our planet.
As 2020 took its course, huge wildfires, something that has never been seen before, broke out in Australia, scorching more than 65,000 square miles, an area larger than Illinois. Fast forward to July, wildfires fuelled by an intense Arctic heatwave swept across Siberia. In recent months, dozens of catastrophic wildfires have swept large regions of western U.S., including Prichard’s home state of Washington. Millions of acres engulfed by flames across California, Oregon, and Washington, leaving a trail of 36 deaths.
Susan Prichard, a forest ecologist, and a research scientist at the University of Washington, who has been studying the connection between wildfires and climate change since the early 1990s, has made it clear that global warming significantly contributes to longer and more intense fire seasons around the world. This raises the questions; could this be the future experts have been warning us about? Could it be too late?
“What strikes me is that the future we were really worried about and that us climate scientists talked about for decades, we’re living through that now,” Prichard said.
According to climate experts, in a warming world, devastating wildfires like those occurring now are likely to be more frequent and more destructive. This destruction comes with enormous environmental, financial, and health impacts on the communities affected.
“Individual things like a bad hurricane season, bad flooding or bad wildfires are not that surprising because literally every climate scientist predicted these things would happen,” said Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a senior research associate at the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia. “But seeing all these things happen in one year — in some cases, simultaneously — is shocking and does make me worried about what the next 10 years are going to look like.”
The wildfires have occurred thousands of miles apart and in different continents, but they feature some similarities, according to Mike Flannigan, the director of the Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science at the University of Alberta in Canada. Wildfires in the U.S. and Australia started earlier than normal amid persistent drought conditions, Flannigan said. Lightning also played a key role in starting fires in Australia and California.
Seasonal wildfires occur naturally all around the plant, but as global warming worsens, the atmosphere tends to pull out moisture out of leaves more efficiently, and the forest floors, leaving dry leaves and trees that fuel the fires, according to Flannigan. With no precipitation to compensate for the fast loss of moisture from leaves and trees, ideal conditions for a wildfire are created.
Up to now, research and studies have already shown that climate change is increasing wildfire activities and lengthening wildfire seasons. So the key cause of the current supercharged wildfires is climate change, which calls for climate actions. We’ve been told before that this would happen, nothing changed. Now that we’ve seen it’s real and it can be worse, that should be enough of a wake-up call. The time for climate action is now. We should remember that if we completely mess up the climate, the only species that will be wiped from the face of the earth is us, and the planet will regrow again.
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