Study: Nature more of a fire risk than global warming

“When an area has no human population, there is a risk that the fires increase and are able to spread.”

The media release is below.


Demographic changes increase the risk of natural fires

In many parts of the world, grass and forest fires pose a threat to animals and humans. According to a new study from Lund University in Sweden, while climate change is likely to cause more and larger fires, in the future, more and more people will become directly affected as a result of demographic changes.

Wolfgang Knorr at Lund University, together with colleagues from Germany and China, has studied the correlation between an increasingly warmer climate and various types of natural fires in different parts of the world. They have also studied another, and more unknown, aspect of these fires. According to Wolfgang Knorr, demographic changes will have a major impact on the spread and number of fires, and to what extent they pose a threat to humans.

“Our most important result is that demographic changes can have a greater impact than climate change, in terms of the increased risk. The biggest reason as to why more and more people will be affected in the future is the increasing number of people who live in, or on the border of, areas that are prone to fires”, says Wolfgang Knorr.

The study shows that climate change will lead to an increased number of fires in natural environments in North America, southern Europe, central Asia, and main parts of South America. In Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia and South America, population change will lead to a decreased number of fires.

Population movement also means that in some areas there are hardly any people left. This also has effects on the number of fires and how they spread.

“When an area has no human population, there is a risk that the fires increase and are able to spread. Our study shows that climate change is intimately connected to urban and rural planning, showing that the risks can be minimised through effective planning”, says Wolfgang Knorr.

The study involved gathering all available global data on natural fires that have been recorded via satellite since 1997. The data was then run through a model using different scenarios of changes in vegetation based on climate change and increased carbon dioxide emissions. The study is published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.


4 thoughts on “Study: Nature more of a fire risk than global warming”

  1. Your are very correct! (I spent 15 years at the USFS Fire Research facility in Riverside, CA.) Fire is a normal (and necessary) part of many ecosystems. The problem with its growing adverse interactions with people and property is due to the unwise (ignorant) intrusions of people and their “stuff” into fire prone ecosystems–especially chaparral such as is native to so much of Southern California. Has nothing to do with climate change.

  2. In California much of the landscape is Oak Savannah, a grassland dotted with widely spaced Live Oak trees. Live oak trees have evolved to not shed their leaves and thus take advantage of the snow-free winters.
    They also have a tough bark so that when a grass fire flashes through the living tissues beneath the bark will stand a much greater chance of surviving than the leaves, which often are gone in a glorious fireball. The tree as a whole is unharmed, and the leaves regrow quickly. The grass regrows from surviving roots, and seeds that were *under* the heat of the grass fire will germinate at the first sign of moisture.
    Bottom line: Fire is a necessary part of the ecology, and has been for millions of years.
    The concept of something that is absolutely necessary being something that represents a “risk” is simply ignorant.

  3. As a professional forester who was intimately involved in forest, bush and grass land wild fire management and research during most of my 40 year career with the US Forest Service, the alleged “findings” of this study, at least as they seem to be hyped here, simultaneously both offer nothing not obvious, and make no sense.

    Among the more obvious “foregone conclusions” that they use as a “given” is that [alleged] climate change is already causing more and bigger fires. That statement can only be founded on the fallacious attribution of any untoward fire activity as “obviously” be the result of “climate change”. Absent that, there is NO statistically or otherwise proven link

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