Europe fires to worsen even if climate goals met: study

In July, nearly 100 people perished in blazes at coastal resorts near Athens, the country's worst fire
In July, nearly 100 people perished in blazes at coastal resorts near Athens, the country's worst fire

Even reaching the most optimistic goals in the Paris climate treaty will still increase the area of southern Europe devastated by forest fires each year by at least 40 percent, researchers warned Tuesday.

Following two years of often deadly blazes across Portugal, Spain, southern France and Greece, scientists at the University of Barcelona said more woodland areas could be lost to the flames if the targets laid out in the 2015 were missed.

The agreement aims to limit global temperature increases to "well below" 2.0 degrees Celsius—and to 1.5C if at all possible.

In the first study of its kind, the team tested computer models of how much worse fires would get if global temperatures were to rise 1.5C, 2C, or 3C by the end of the century.

"It's relevant because there are a lot of fires in this area, for instance, in Greece this year or last summer in Portugal," Marco Turco, from the university's Department of Applied Physics and lead study author told AFP. "These are examples of things to come in the future."

Turco and the team found that the area of southern Europe lost each year to fire would increase between 40-54 percent, even if temperature rises were limited to 1.5C—the most ambitious goal in all efforts.

"1.5C is really ambitious... but it's not physically impossible," said Turco.

Were temperatures to climb 2C above the preindustrial benchmark, the area destroyed by fire was projected to increase between 62-87 percent, and for 3C it could grow by as much as 187 percent as climate change-induced droughts produce more combustible material.

Southern Europe currently loses around 4,500 square kilometres—three times the area of Greater London—each year to fire.

Deadliest blazes

In July, nearly 100 people perished in blazes at coastal resorts near Athens, the country's worst fire in modern history.

The government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came in for thunderous criticism after a combination of tactical errors by emergency responders and poor infrastructure trapped hundreds of holidaymakers in the path of the flames.

In August 2017, 64 people burned to death in Portugal's worst ever fires.

Scientists have consistently predicted that such as wildfires, drought, superstorms and flooding will become more frequent and severe as our planet heats up.

Turco said his study highlighted the importance of trying to stick to 1.5C rises—something some studies already suggest may be beyond reach.

Ultimately, in seaside regions where holiday homes predominate, people may wish to reconsider buying a property that could become increasingly prey to as the century progresses.

"In these areas the has meant that people have to be really careful considering these future scenarios," Turco said.


Explore further

Athens fires among the deadliest in Europe this century

More information: Marco Turco et al. Exacerbated fires in Mediterranean Europe due to anthropogenic warming projected with non-stationary climate-fire models, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06358-z
Journal information: Nature Communications

© 2018 AFP

Citation: Europe fires to worsen even if climate goals met: study (2018, October 2) retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-10-europe-worsen-climate-goals-met.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
104 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 02, 2018
Speculation based entirely on...wait for it...computer models. Rather than look at measurements, data, and trends, alarmists love those computer models because they can tune them to show anything they want. Meanwhile the actual data shows that there is no discernible global trend in wildfires over the last 50 years; just regional variations; evidence that clearly refutes the narrative of this article. Here's some actual science:

https://www.ncbi....4874420/

Oct 03, 2018
Please, aksdad, post a working link. I love seeing how your references contradict your point.

Oct 03, 2018
Lee, the link works for me. It's a very odd study. First, they don't question that climate change will make fires worse, so aksdad was wrong to link the study.

Second, they want to compare current fires to pre-European settlement fires. This is always the wrong thing to do because: 1) There was more forest ~1500 and, 2) There was no fire suppression ~1500.

Third, they show that by ~quadrupling fire suppression expenditures, we've been able to only increase acres burnt in the US by ~3 times. So the lesson is that fires seem to be getting worse and cost a lot more to control. So, Huzzah for Climate Change! It costs us more money! ;)

Oct 03, 2018
Please, aksdad, post a working link. I love seeing how your references contradict your point.

The leetennant jackass brays, yet again.
This jackass so cares about the Earth, he boasted about his, CO2 spewing, pleasure cruise to the Antarctic and his plans to do the same to the Arctic. This jackass just likes the sound of his braying and not the substance, since it's shameless hypocritical shite. Keep braying jackass, I love seeing how your HAWW...HEE....HAWW...HEE....contradicts your pitiful existence.

Oct 03, 2018
Lee, the link works for me. It's a very odd study. First, they don't question that climate change will make fires worse, so aksdad was wrong to link the study.

Second, they want to compare current fires to pre-European settlement fires. This is always the wrong thing to do because: 1) There was more forest ~1500 and, 2) There was no fire suppression ~1500.

Third, they show that by ~quadrupling fire suppression expenditures, we've been able to only increase acres burnt in the US by ~3 times. So the lesson is that fires seem to be getting worse and cost a lot more to control. So, Huzzah for Climate Change! It costs us more money! ;)


For some reason, the link is now working for me. And... yeah. Everything you said.

Oct 06, 2018
Over-forestation by the EU is partly to blame. Sedgeland and grassland, which support a greater diversity of life was replaced with forests. So, in addition to reducing wildlife, they put forests up, near inhabited areas and lowering the water-table, making forests more prone to burning. Climate change has nothing to do with it.

Oct 10, 2018
The antigoracle jackass brays again.
Hey jackass, your tiny, atrophied Republican troll brain is incapable of processing actual science, so just quit.
The shite between your ears is....well shite. Using it to soil the forum just makes your stench stronger. Accepting what the Republican Cult spew in your face, without question, just confirms your ignorance.

(Folks, I am trying to communicate with antigoracle in a manner he can understand. I tried sound reasoning backed up by links to reliable papers/articles, but it does not work.)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more