Climate Change Increases the Risk of Wildfires

Approach.  We undertook a Rapid Response Review on the link between climate change and fire risk. 57 scientific articles were gathered and evaluated using ScienceBrief. This document synthesises the key points that emerged from the published findings. Our review focuses on papers published since the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with its cutoff date of March 2013. The papers can be viewed on https://sciencebrief.org/topics/climate-change-science/wildfires. All papers show linkages between climate change and increased frequency or severity of fire weather, though some note anomalies in isolated regions. None of the papers support a widespread decrease in fire risk.

Summary. Human-induced climate change promotes the conditions on which wildfires depend, enhancing their likelihood and challenging suppression efforts. Human-induced warming has already led to a global increase in the frequency and severity of fire weather, increasing the risks of wildfire. This signal has emerged from natural variability in many regions, including the western US and Canada, southern Europe, Scandinavia and Amazonia. Human-induced warming is also increasing fire risks in other regions, including Siberia and Australia. Nonetheless, wildfire activity is determined by a range of other factors includ- ing land management and ignition sources, and on the global-scale most datasets indicate a reduction in burned area in recent years, chiefly due to clearing of natural land for agriculture.