The work published in Environmental Research Letters is the first to quantify how fossil fuel company emissions have worsened wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada. A huge swath of recently burned forests – as much as 20 million acres – can be directly traced to major fossil fuel companies like Chevron, ExxonMobile, BP and Shell, the study finds. “These companies should be held accountable for their fair share of the damages that they’ve caused,” coauthor and research scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists Carly Phillips told Grist. “They lied and engaged in this orchestrated campaign of deception for years, and it didn’t have to be this way, right?”

Phillips and the other researchers found that 37 percent of forests burned since 1986 across the areas studied can be linked to the carbon pollution from 88 of the world’s largest oil, gas, and coal companies. The research contributes to a growing body of climate “attribution” studies, which quantify how fossil fuel pollution is directly tied to global temperature increases, sea level rise, and ocean acidification, and other climate impacts. Attribution research has underpinned many climate lawsuits brought by impacted communities. (CNN, The Hill, Grist, Truthout,, E&E $, Sac Bee $, LA Times $)