The summer of 2021 was a devastating one for BC, with extreme temperatures leading to catastrophic wildfires for many parts of the province.
While BC experienced the worst of it, other parts of Canada and the world also dealt with wildfires.
A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) suggests catastrophic wildfires could increase dramatically within the next 80 years.
“The need to reduce wildfire risk is more critical than ever,” reads a statement from UNEP.
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Of particular note, the report suggests that places that have no history of catastrophic wildfires — like the Arctic — could also be at risk.
Outside of climate change, another reason for the potentially dramatic increase in catastrophic wildfires is a change in land use which could lead to not only making wildfires more frequent but also more intense.
Current projections suggest that wildfires could increase up to 14% by 2030, 30% by 2050, and 50% by 2100.
The report states that according to experts, governments are not prepared for what’s ahead. They call wildfires and climate change “mutually exacerbating.”
The report is calling for world leaders to “radically shift” resources into wildfires with a focus on prevention and preparedness.
“Current government responses to wildfires are often putting money in the wrong place. Those emergency service workers and firefighters on the frontlines who are risking their lives to fight forest wildfires need to be supported,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen in a press release.
“We have to minimize the risk of extreme wildfires by being better prepared: invest more in fire risk reduction, work with local communities, and strengthen global commitment to fight climate change.”
The UNEP also suggests that governments consult with Indigenous groups when looking at possible preventative measures.
UNEP’s report highlights some of the major health risks of catastrophic wildfires, while also including the fact that they disproportionately affect the poorest nations in the world.
Some of the major consequences include:
- Health complications from inhaling wildfire smoke leading to respiratory and cardiovascular impacts.
- Economic costs
- Watersheds degraded by pollutants. They can also lead to soil erosion.
- Wastes left behind are often highly contaminated
Extreme weather events caused an estimated $2.1 billion in insured damages in 2021.
This report follows another recent study that suggests that parts of major global cities could be underwater within the next 80 years.