Should the Arctic be burned? – Global issues

Wildfires are becoming more frequent and more intense - Are there any burns in the Arctic?  - Each year, from 2002 to 2016, an average of 423 million hectares or 4.23 million square kilometers of the Earth's surface - an area the size of the entire European Union - burned.  Image provider: Mario Osava/IPS.
Each year, from 2002 to 2016, an average of 423 million hectares or 4.23 million square kilometers of the Earth’s surface – an area the size of the entire European Union – burned. Image provider: Mario Osava/IPS.
  • by Baher Kamal (Madrid)
  • Joint press service

Experts on February 23, 2022 said: “Even the Arctic, formerly all but the immune zone, faces an increased risk of wildfires” speak before the United Nations Environment Council in Nairobi.

Report, Spreading Like Wildfires: The Growing Threat of Unusual Scene Fires, finds “high risk” even for the Arctic and other areas previously unaffected by wildfires. The document was released before the 5th session of the United Nations Environment Council resumed (UNEA-5.2) convened in Nairobi, from 28 February to 2 March 2022.

Dangerous bushfire weather forecast to get worse

Other UNEP reportreleased on February 17, 2022, warns that:

  • Each year, between 2002 and 2016, an average of 423 million hectares or 4.23 million square kilometers of the Earth’s surface – an area the size of the entire European Union – burned, increasingly common in mixed forest and savanna ecosystems. An estimated 67% of the global area burned annually by all types of fires, including wildfires, is located on the African continent.
  • Danger Wildfire weather conditions are expected become more frequent, more intense and longer lasting, consists of in areas previously unaffected by the fire.
  • Extremely intense wildfires can cause thunderstorms in plumes of smoke that exacerbate fires through erratic wind speeds and create lightning ignites other fires far beyond the fire front, a dangerous feedback loop.
  • This is due to climate change, which includes hotter temperatures and drier conditions with a frequency drought.
  • Land-use change is another risk factor, including commercial logging and deforestation for farming, grazing land and expansion of cities.
  • Another cause of the increase in forest fires is the vigorous extinguishment of natural fires, which is necessary in some natural systems to limit the amount of combustible materials and management policies. Inappropriate fires exclude traditional fire management practices and indigenous knowledge.
  • The long-term effects on human health extend beyond fighting forest fires, evacuateor suffered. Smoke and particulate matter from wildfires have significant health consequences in windy settlements, sometimes thousands of kilometers from the sourcewith effects that are often more severe in people with pre-existing medical conditions, women, children, the elderly and the poor.
  • Changes in firefighting regimes are also expected to result in massive biodiversity loss, endangering the 4,400 terrestrial and freshwater species.
  • Wildfires produce black carbon and other pollutants that can contaminate water supplies, accelerate the melting of glaciers, cause landslides and large-scale algal blooms in the oceans, and turn reservoirs. carbon like tropical forests into a carbon source.

The report calls for more investment in forest fire risk reduction; developing prevention and response management approaches that include vulnerable, rural, traditional and indigenous communities; and further enhancements to remote sensing capabilities, such as satellite, radar and lightning detection.

Other facts

The rapid spread of forest fires has a significant impact on health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • There are an estimated 180,000 deaths annually from burns – the majority occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Non-fatal burn injuries are a leading cause of morbidity.
  • Burns occur mainly at home and at work.
  • Burns are preventable.

A burn is an injury to the skin or other organic tissues caused primarily by heat or by radiation, radiation, electricity, friction, or chemical exposure. explain WHO.

Thermal (heat) burns occur when some or all of the cells in the skin or other tissues are destroyed by:

  • hot liquid (scald)
  • hot solids (contact burns), or
  • flame (flame burning).


Burns are a global public health problem, WHO report. The majority of these occur in low- and middle-income countries, and nearly two-thirds occur in the WHO Africa and Southeast Asia regions.

Non-fatal burns are a leading cause of morbidity, including prolonged hospitalization, disfigurement and disability, often leading to stigma and rejection.

The World Agency adds that:

  • Burns are one of the leading causes of disability-adjusted life years lost in low- and middle-income countries.
  • In 2004, nearly 11 million people worldwide suffered burns so severe that they required medical attention.

Some country data

WHO provided few examples:

  • In India, more than 1,000,000 people suffer moderate or severe burns each year.
  • Nearly 173,000 Bangladeshi children suffer moderate or severe burns each year.
  • In Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt and Pakistan, 17% of children with burns were temporarily disabled and 18% were permanently disabled.
  • Burns are the second most common injury in rural Nepal, accounting for 5% of people with disabilities.
  • In 2008, more than 410 000 burn injuries occurred in the United States, with approximately 40,000 hospitalizations.

Fire-ready recipe

UNEP-GRID Arendal . Report call on governments adopting the new ‘Fire Readiness Formula’, with two-thirds of spending going to planning, prevention, preparedness and recovery, the other one-third going to response.

“Currently, direct response measures to wildfires typically receive more than half of the associated costs, while planning receives less than one percent.”

“Current government responses to wildfires are often misplaced money. Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, said emergency services workers and firefighters who are risking their lives battling bushfires need support.

“We must reduce the risk of extreme wildfires by being better prepared: investing more in fire risk reduction, working with local communities and strengthening our global commitment to climate change.” climate change”.

UNEP-GRID Arendal experts, wildfires have negligible impact on the world’s poorest countries alert.

Deepening social inequality

With an impact that lasts days, weeks and even years after the flames are extinguished, they impede the progress of the United Nations. Sustainable development goals and deepening social inequality:

  • People’s health is directly affected by inhaling forest fire smoke, causing respiratory and cardiovascular effects and increasing health impacts on the most vulnerable;
  • The economic costs of rebuilding after wildfire-stricken areas can exceed the capacity of low-income countries;
  • Watersheds are degraded due to pollutants of forest fires; they can also lead to soil erosion that causes more problems for waterways;
  • The waste left behind is often highly contaminated and needs to be disposed of appropriately.

“Wildfires and climate change are exacerbating them together. Wildfires are made worse by climate change through increased drought, high air temperatures, low relative humidity, lightning and strong winds leading to hotter, drier and longer fire seasons.” .

Billions of animals were wiped out

At the same time, add According to the UNEP-GRID Arendal report, climate change is made worse by wildfires, mainly by devastation of sensitive and carbon-rich ecosystems such as peatlands and rainforests. This turns the landscape into tinder boxes, making it harder to prevent temperatures from rising.

“Wildlife and its natural habitat are rarely saved from wildfires, pushing some species of flora and fauna to near extinction. A recent example is the 2020 Australian bushfires, which are estimated to have wiped out billions of wild and domesticated animals. ”

About this, BBC in December 2021 report that the wildfires in Brazil killed about 17 million animals.

The UNEP-GRID Arendal report was made to support UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration. The Decade (2021-2030) is a rallying call to protect and revitalize ecosystems worldwide, for the benefit of people and nature.

© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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