A new study shows that the “Black Summer” wildfires of 2019 in Australia released more carbon dioxide than the country’s annual fossil fuel emissions, a direct consequence of forest mismanagement.
In early 2020, the devastating wildfires in Australia filled headlines worldwide. So much smoke was produced that it was dubbed “Black Summer.” Now scientists from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research have published a study on the amount of carbon dioxide released from those fires. Using satellite data, the scientists determined that the wildfires produced twice as much as Australia releases from fossil fuels in a year, equivalent to the total annual global carbon emissions from air travel.
The technological feat was achieved using the Dutch-developed TROPOMI instrument to measure carbon monoxide released from the fire. The primary fuel was eucalyptus trees. Since scientists have established an excellent empirical relationship between CO and CO2 from burning such trees, they could estimate the carbon emissions quite accurately. VU professor Ilse Aben said that “TROPOMI enables us to monitor wildfires and carbon monoxide emissions much more accurately from space thanks to the high precision of the instrument down to the lowest layers in the atmosphere where the fires occur.”
VU professor Dr. Guido van der Werf is a climate and forest fire expert. He argues that “part of the emitted CO2 will not be compensated for by CO2 uptake during post-fire regrowth. Some of the emitted CO2 will therefore remain longer in the atmosphere and thus contribute to global warming.” Such wildfires could become more frequent in the future due to climate change.
However, despite the IPCC’s claims, the evidence for increased extreme weather is scarce. Natural climate variability is so significant that human contributions are hard to discern.
By contrast, a far more massive influence on wildfires is forest management policies. Responsible nations, such as Finland, manage the fire risk by regularly burning the underbrush in small, controlled fires. Such management prevents the accumulation of fuel for mega-fires. According to bushfire scientist David Packham, the Australian fires were caused by a change in policy which allowed the underbrush to build up to dangerous levels. He warned about the risk of a catastrophic wildfire for years.
The same problem is also present in parts of the United States, especially California. The media fails to report that the annual wildfires plaguing the Golden State are easily preventable with proper forest management. Although the solutions are well-known, tested, and proven, the ideologically motivated authorities refuse to implement them.
The result is larger disasters. The same environmentalists who cause the fires use them to erroneously proclaim the dangers of global warming and the need for even more draconian policies. For now, they get away with it because there are no adults in the room to call them on it.
Read more from Caroline Adana.