And Then There Is This – Globally Wildfires Decreasing Since 2001

Italics and bolding added by Gil

#1)  WSJ ByBjorn Lomborg,

Climate Change Hasn’t Set the World on Fire

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

New research shows wildfires have decreased globally while media coverage has spiked 400%

26 thoughts on “And Then There Is This – Globally Wildfires Decreasing Since 2001”

    • The figure is straight from NASA so that is the source of the graph and the data used by the Danish Scientist Bjorn Lomborg. If He found it there, you should be able to do the same thing. He is the former director of the Danish government’s Environmental Assessment Institute (EAI) in Copenhagen. Here is a short Bio from the Brittanica Site: .

      It would be great if you checked with NASA to validate this info. I am not a subscriber to the WSJ so the graph straight from NASA appears to have been removed from my post >>>WOW IT’S BACK NOW<<< and they will not allow me to view the article anymore. You should be able to get one time access from the WSJ, as I did, using the Bold Green Link at the top of this post.I understand your concern but it would be rather stupid for an author to fake a graph from NASA when it could so easily be checked.Also, see the supporting replies to other comments below.

  1. Consider the sources. The Hoover Institute honors a president who gave us the Great Depression and the Canadian LifeSite News is a conspiracy pseudo-religious cult site. Both peddle misinformation and disinformation.

    • Ah, yes guilt by association. Keep those blinders on and don’t check out the possibility that you could be wrong.

      I suppose that all of the others who have replied to other such comments below are just as horrible as anyone else who disagrees with you.

  2. While waiting for you to produce the actual data source, your figure purports to show the % area burned over 20 years. If we go with 2.5% as the median (probably an underestimate) by your chop logic that equals 50% of the planet burning between 2001-2022. Wow, we’re toast already.

    I thought Smokey Wire was supposed to be reality based?

    • There seems to be a missing component in all the denying of statistics and research showing declines in areas burned. The “post” is in reference to “global” area; every one of you doubters are tiring it to the US! The Canadian study, referenced in the post, also attributes the fact of reduced burn area but increased hysteria from the media.

      Just like Sharon asked the other day on the “language” (ship) of climate change, too many subjective contrivances that seem to be no more than “hot air”, so to speak….

  3. The skinny is : terrorist are setting fires in America and people were caight and arrested..the corporations are allowed to fill the sky with more and more satellites elon musk as if unlimited numbers has no about satellites galore causing atmosperic changes, or thousands of airliners in the sky everyday….blame it on anything but corporate expansion/ profiteering and require the people to accept blame…why were corporations allowed to invent/create freon( air condition) and destroy the ozone…? Get real , its a gigantic fraud…

    • Yea!

      In my book arsonists and ignorant campers are terrorists. In 1964, I fought one fire caused by a camper in the Shasta Trinity NF who had laid his/her cigarette on the large log that they were leaning against to take a dump. No telling how long it took to smolder it’s way though the bark to the ground and ignite the forest litter.

      And Freon was supposed to have been outlawed decades ago but I recently found out from my A/C man that they are still using it. Although, the last that I knew, the Ozone holes that Freon was supposedly causing in the atmosphere have decreased significantly since then. So Go Figure??

  4. From YaleEnvironment360

    While NASA’s new video does show regional upticks in certain parts of the world, scientists made clear that the total number of square kilometers burned globally each year has dropped roughly 25 percent since 2003. This has largely been due to population growth and development in grasslands and savannas, as well as to an increase in the use of machines to clear farmland.

    “There are really two separate trends,” said James Randerson, a scientist at the University of California, Irvine who worked on the new wildfire video. “Even as the global burned area number has declined because of what is happening in savannas, we are seeing a significant increase in the intensity and reach of fires in the western United States because of climate change.”

      • Sharon, I didn’t comment on your post the first round. I’ve always wondered how it would play out if WFU acres were subtracted. I felt there were too many possible sources of errors in your approach (e.g., how big would the fires have been if not for WFU; the last 20 years have been the hottest and, in some areas, driest, since fire records have been recorded, so why would it show a big change during that period, etc) to get a truly accurate picture and, quite frankly, I don’t know how one could get accurate numbers, but it did indicate a possible issue with the dialogue presented by the media.

        Regardless, I just quoted two paragraphs from the article in response to the post in order to show the issue with the intention of the post. It’s a short and interesting article. I didn’t know that 70 percent of the acreage burned in fires in the world were in Africa. The NASA figures don’t indicate why there has been a change in acreage burned. My suspicion is there are multiple factors that have nothing to do with the climate, like increased urbanization and maybe conversion of areas to crops or oil and gas fields. It could even be tied to climate change as more land becomes so parched most of the vegetation has died out and can’t carry a fire. So many possible factors; such an unscientific article (the one posted). Although, one could argue it is a perfect response to many of the articles in mainstream media that purport the world is burning up due to climate change.

    • Hi Mike: I have been following and documenting the wildfires in the western US for the past 50 years, and my research has been on fire history going back 500 years. James Randerson and I are in total disagreement. I have been accurately and publicly predicting these fires for more than 30 years on the basis of two facts: 1) they are mostly taking place on federal lands (if we are talking about forests particularly), and 2) they are a direct and predictable result of changed land management policies in the late 1980s related to ESA “critical habitat” acronyms. Nothing to do with climate change, which in fact hasn’t changed in this region for hundreds of years — and the 30s were warmer and drier. Way worse floods in the 1860s and windstorms in the 1880s and 1960s. Hotter in 1919. Etc.

      • Hi Bob, I appreciate your good research in your part of the country. Where I live, in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, we experienced the worst drought in 2002 since the 1890s when there was decent record keeping. Three out of four of our driest years have occurred since 2000. Our part of the San Juan Mountains rise quickly, so more than 40% of the Rio Grande National Forest is in the subalpine zone, with a total of 35% in the spruce-fir cover type as of 2012. The forest needs to update that figure since the large 2013 West Fork Complex burned mostly in beetle-killed spruce-fir (there is a climate change “smoking gun” signature to the spruce beetle epidemic). Our subalpine zone has a large fire return interval ranging from 200-1000 years due to its temperature and moisture regime. The large range is due to slope aspect and other localized factors. We experienced the largest fire on the forest in over 100 years in 2002. Since that fire, there have been five fires in the Upper Rio Grande that have been larger. Additionally, a Corps of Engineers study of the Middle and Upper Rio Grande indicated a more than 1C increase in temperature and an extension of the growing season by close to two weeks in the Upper Rio Grande – unfortunately, I can’t remember the time period it covered. I’ve written extensively locally about all of this, but that doesn’t mean my aging dyslexic brain can remember all the specifics. I wrote these articles when I worked for the Rio Grande NF and don’t have copies on my personal computer.

        Lastly, none of the above makes a difference to the point I was trying to make, which is the original post has a lot of issues tied to the cause of the reduction of total acres burned globally.

        • Well Mike, the Rio Grande and the San Juan used to manage timber too! I remember one big mill in South Fork and one in Pagosa. I was there in the early 1970’s and can still remember walking through timber stands that were marked, in the old Hanson Mill location, south of Creede. Fast forward to the 1990’s, and time spent at Wolf Creek, then to the 2010’s, when the spruce beetle ended up managing the forest, that the forest service failed to do! The mills were sold for scrap! I have logging friends now cleaning up the mess of dead spruce, but only in a portion of the workable grounds. I keep hearing “yeah, it’ll grow back”, when I truly believe had we been able to maintain management, the results of the outbreak would not have been as bad as it is now!

          Climate change? Head South, to Region 8; no big SPB outbreaks, no real big fires, just lots of fine forest management…. It can still be done.

          • Well Jim, 38 of my 41 year USFS career was on the Rio Grande NF. I marked trees near Hanson’s Mill in 1980. I laid out timber sales and collected data at literally 1000s of Stage II plots in the 80s on the Creede, Del Norte and later the combined Divide RDs. Our foresters, zoned entomologists, and Schmitt (sp?) and Frye (the two who wrote the Bible on timber management for spruce beetle) would disagree with your assessment. The progression map of spruce beetle infestation helps one to see the multiple start points of what became an epidemic, including one previously logged area. One of the start points would align perfectly with your thoughts as it was a blowdown area in a timber management area that was held up due to litigation, but other areas don’t fit so nicely into the “it was poor timber management” accusations.

            2000 was a dry year and 2002 was the record breaker. The endemic spruce beetle population was able to move into what were healthy trees because they had no defense. It takes about three years for spruce to rebound from that kind of year, but by the time they did the beetle populations were large and the sheer number of spruce beetles overwhelmed spruce trees even after they recovered. RMRS researcher Barbara Benns did a study indicating that the lifecycle for a large number of beetles was shortened to one year rather than the normal two years possibly due to the longer season of warm temperatures – full disclosure, there was some disagreement on her findings. If she was correct, that would help to understand the quick increase in population.

            Additionally, the Rio Grande NF continued to put out timber sales even after Stone Container went bankrupt. My understanding is the bankruptcy was not due to anything that happened on the Rio Grande NF, but was due to their other three mills in the NW. The forest had difficulty selling sales in 2008-2010 due to the collapse of the housing market.

            The West Fork and Papoose Fires – two of the three that made up the West Fork Complex – blasted through both logged and unlogged areas. The Papoose Fire burned through large clearcuts with 20 ft tall green spruce just fine. A low snow year, dry spring, warm temperatures, single digit RHs, winds peaking at 60 mph on the ridge tops that continued throughout the nights, and exceptionally low live fuel moistures meant these fires were going to get big whether there were dead trees or not, whether there were managed forests or not.

            Does that mean all this was due to climate change? Absolutely not. As I said, climate change is the smoking gun, but there is no absolute proof that these specific events were due to climate change. Understand, whereas I believe in anthropogenic climate change based on my extensive reading, my identity and ego are not tied to that belief. I am happy to change my line of thinking on the subject when presented with science that proves it incorrect. I haven’t seen that yet. I saw many issues with the links provided by some of the skeptics in previous posts, but I’m not going to jump into that argument because it is senseless to spend the time on it.

            • So we are not far apart on our thinking; litigation is always a killer, especially when it comes to natural disturbances or fire salvage. Had the timber program continued at a modest pace, I have no doubt the mortality would not be as great; maybe, just maybe, one of the major fires could have been caught., etc.

              As in fire tragedy’s, it’s the cascading circumstances that cause the damage! I was thinning & clearcutting lodgepole in 2002. Everything around Leadville was “red” (White River, Salida RD with PP, Gunnison, etc. only endemic outbreaks here. Luck? Probably, but areas on White River that had been clearcut earlier, and now regenerated, are the only “green” patches left.

              I believe the climate is changing but I’m not sold on the carbon causation. Climate change is too easy of an excuse to lay too many problems on. It heard the news last week blame climate change on air turbulence. Really? You see my point?

  5. Swidden agriculture in developing nations re burns the same acreage on ten or twenty year intervals, and the total acreage burnt in any one year is very small. As people and villages are relocated (often enough not of their own choosing) to developed areas, and the forests are cut, farmers change to more conventional agriculture or work in factories etc.

    I’ve also seen places where dry season fires are only on the ground, not hot, mostly burning weeds and leaves accumulated over the year, and they burn every year.

  6. Here’s my thing about this kind of discussion…
    Yes I think there is a narrative promoting everything bad that happens as about climate. Regardless of what IPCC has to say on whatever the event is.
    And there will be stories which quote scientists as saying “the only thing we can do about wildfires (or other disasters) is to stop oil and gas.” Which we know is hokum because people have been dealing with wildfire, flooding etc. since forever.
    Plus we know that suppression and evacuation efforts require… oil and gas at this point in time. And we know that the military-industrial complex is working on new tools to help fire suppression.
    We know that wildland firefighters deserve to be paid. We’re all part of the system but framing it as about climate change makes the rest of us invisible.
    So my tendency is to stick to what we know and can manage and collect and ground-truth data on. Which would be US figures, and US decarbonization efforts.
    So that’s my feeling, no disrespect to Gil for posting this, but I don’t see these back- and- forths leading anywhere productive. World averages vs. US, last 10 years, last 50 years etc. I think these debates are distracting us from the task of getting on with decarbonization. If it were up to me I’d take most of this kind of research and put the money in to figuring out better ways to decarbonize and ameliorate problems.. but research communities are getting bucks for this and will keep churning it out. However, we don’t have to pay attention.

    This is kind of the ultimate example I use for silly kinds of research “Climate change is causing more home runs in baseball – study”

    Answers all depend on time and space.. temporal and spatial scales, plus for wildfires correlates like

    • Ironically, Major League Baseball has ‘tweaked’ the characteristics of the baseball over the last decade, or so. Even a ‘tacky’ substance used by pitchers affected totals. Additionally, steroids had a major effect on home run frequency, too. Thrown in for good measure are the ballpark layouts and weather conditions.

      Baseball can be a good metaphor, or not, depending on your point of view. Be reminded that Barry Bonds’ records are tainted by his (rumored) steroid use, even today.

    • No offense taken.

      These are US collected data and include notations on the American Situation.

      As to your comment above regarding “I think these debates are distracting us from the task of getting on with decarbonization.”
      >>> The problem with focusing on atmospheric carbon from Carbon Dioxide emissions is that, as noted in many of my ancient posts/comments on this site, the short term trend from the 1800’s or so is not proof of causation. In fact, it is contradicted by the long term cyclical nature of atmospheric carbon based on ice cores taken from Greenland and Siberia, if my memory serves me correctly, which show that somewhere around 11,000 to 13,000 years ago, the temperatures were at least as high as they were earlier in this century. Yet, approximately 12 millennia ago there was only half of the atmospheric carbon. Which sort of shoots down the whole ‘global warming is the result of the activities of mankind theory’ aka: anthropogenic activity’

      How people can put their blinders on and ignore this cyclicality which contradicts the current bandwagon is sheer stupidity in my humble opinion. It is just another case of doing something to do something even if it’s wrong and kills us all. Instead, we should be resolving the apparent contradiction. And we should recognize that humans have survived temperatures at least as hot without air conditioning which can be supplied very simply though water tower cooling based A/C without using the current questionable chemicals. I know this for a fact as the Church that I attended in Winnfield, Louisiana in the early ’70’s had one that cooled the entire building and it was just as effective as the modern one that replaced it.

      • Assuming your facts are correct, just think how hot it will be when the other things that were causing that historic heat wave cycle back and line up with so much more atmospheric carbon. Maybe NOT something “humans have survived.”


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