(Santa Barbara, Calif.) Fire must be accounted for as an integral part of climate change, according to 22 authors of an article published in the April 24 issue of the journal Science. The authors determined that intentional deforestation fires alone contribute up to one-fifth of the human-caused increase in emissions of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that raises global temperature.
The work is the culmination of a meeting supported by the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), both based at UC Santa Barbara and funded by the National Science Foundation.
The authors call on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to fully integrate fire into their assessments of global climate change, and to consider fire-climate feedbacks, which have been largely absent in global models.
The article ties together various threads of knowledge about fire, which have, until now, remained isolated in disparate fields, including ecology, global modeling, physics, anthropology, and climatology.
Increasing numbers of wildfires are influencing climate as well, the authors report. "The tragic fires in Victoria, Australia, emphasize the ubiquity of recent large wildfires and potentially changing fire regimes that are concomitant with anthropogenic climate change," said first author David Bowman, professor at the University of Tasmania. "Our review is both timely and of great relevance globally."
Carbon dioxide is the most important and well-studied greenhouse gas that is emitted by burning plants. Other atmospheric changes caused by fires are increases in the greenhouse gas methane, increased aerosol particulates from smoke, and the changing reflectance of a charred landscape. Consequences of large fires also have huge economic, environmental, and health costs, report the authors.
The authors state, "Earth is intrinsically a
|Contact: Gail Gallessich|
University of California - Santa Barbara