investment viewpoints

fire: climate change is fanning the flames

fire: climate change is fanning the flames
Carolina Minio-Paluello, PhD - Global Head of Solutions, Limited Partner, LOIM

Carolina Minio-Paluello, PhD

Global Head of Solutions, Limited Partner, LOIM

The world has seen an alarming increase in the rate of deforestation, fuelled by a growing abundance of wildfires. Reforestation projects are urgently required to replace what is being lost.

This year has been especially bad in terms of wildfires across the globe. California experienced its biggest on record over the summer, which was just one of more than 100 large fires reported, nationwide. Greece too suffered its worst fire disaster in more than a decade.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that forests cover 31% of the land area on Earth and that the same amount of this is lost to fire each year as logging and agriculture combined. An area the size of New Zealand was lost in 2016 as a result of forest fires in just Brazil and Indonesia, according to independent forest monitoring network Global Forest Watch (GFW).

Anthropogenic climate change will continue to deplete our forests, not least due to the fact that it is creating an environment where wildfires are increasing in frequency and duration. Dry weather and drought can effectively turn fauna into kindling.

Deforestation also provides a boost to climate change given the critical role trees play in absorbing greenhouse gases, as well as the fact they form such a key component in the water cycle. There is a circular effect in play too as deforestation amplifies climate change which itself leads to further deforestation.

Trees act as natural carbon dioxide sinks so that, when they burn, it causes the release of large quantities of both carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, which directly contribute to climate change.

There is hope in the form of a number of initiatives aimed at repairing the damage, including a reforestation project in Mexico. Mexico has one the world’s highest overall rates of greenhouse gas emissions and has been flagged as a country which is particularly vulnerable to climate risk.

As a result of the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development’s efforts in Mexico, there has been a 10% increase in areas which are under improved forest management, equivalent to 1.63 million additional hectares of trees.

This initiative also supported the launch of two new pilot areas which aim to curb carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. More than 4000 forest communities are believed to have benefitted, annually, as a consequence.

The world’s forests are disappearing and one of the leading causes is a direct consequence of global warming – a growing abundance of wildfires. Replacing depleted forests is a crucial component of any meaningful carbon dioxide mitigation policy.

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