Wildfires, supercharged by climate change, produced a record amount of planet-warming CO2 in 2021, European scientists reported Monday. Fires in the U.S., Siberia, and Turkey together emitted 1.76 billion tons of CO2, the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said. Climate change, caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, supercharges wildfires by making droughts more frequent and severe and increasing temperatures, both of which dry out the vegetation fires consume. In California, 2021 saw the second-most acres burned on record (2020 was the only worse year) as infernos, including the largest single fire in recorded history, burned an area larger than the entire state of Connecticut.
“It just shows you the new world that we’re in,” Cal Fire battalion chief Jon Heggie told E&E. “Of the 20 of the largest fires in California history … seven have happened in the last two years.” (CO2: Reuters, CNBC, Sky News, E&E $; California: E&E $; Climate Signals background: Drought, Wildfires, 2021 Western wildfire season)