a) It turns out the percentage of the globe that burns each year has been declining since 2001.
b) For more than two decades, satellites have recorded fires across the planet’s surface. The data are unequivocal: Since the early 2000s, when 3% of the world’s land caught fire, the area burned annually has trended downward.
c) In 2022, the last year for which there are complete data, the world hit a new record-low of 2.2% burned area. Yet you’ll struggle to find that reported anywhere.
d) Yet the latest report by the United Nations’ climate panel doesn’t attribute the area burned globally by wildfires to climate change. Instead, it vaguely suggests the weather conditions that promote wildfires are becoming more common in some places. Still, the report finds that the change in these weather conditions won’t be detectable above the natural noise even by the end of the century.
e)Take the Canadian wildfires this summer. While the complete data aren’t in for 2023, global tracking up to July 29 by the Global Wildfire Information System shows that more land has burned in the Americas than usual. But much of the rest of the world has seen lower burning—Africa and especially Europe. Globally, the GWIS shows that burned area is slightly below the average between 2012 and 2022, a period that already saw some of the lowest rates of burned area.
f) The thick smoke from the Canadian fires that blanketed New York City and elsewhere was serious but only part of the story. Across the world, fewer acres burning each year has led to overall lower levels of smoke, which today likely prevents almost 100,000 infant deaths annually, according to a recent study by researchers at Stanford and Stockholm University.
g) Likewise, while Australia’s wildfires in 2019-20 earned media headlines such as “Apocalypse Now” and “Australia Burns,” the satellite data shows this was a selective narrative. The burning was extraordinary in two states but extraordinarily small in the rest of the country. Since the early 2000s, when 8% of Australia caught fire, the area of the country torched each year has declined. The 2019-20 fires scorched 4% of Australian land, and this year the burned area will likely be even less.
h) In the case of American fires, most of the problem is bad land management. A century of fire suppression has left more fuel for stronger fires. Even so, last year U.S. fires burned less than one-fifth of the average burn in the 1930s and likely only one-tenth of what caught fire in the early 20th century.
#2) The Canadian Take by LIFESITE News,Thu Aug 31, 2023