Written by on April 26, 2023

A twitter post claiming that climate change is not causing an increase in wildfires is false.

“False. There is no anthropogenic climate change causing an increase in wildfires. #ClimateScam,” states the claim.

Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in forests, grasslands and other ecosystems, and they can start with either a natural event or as a result of human activity. An increase in severe heat and drought as a result of climate change can fuel wildfires.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, a rapidly warming planet together with short-sighted forest management practices as well as land use decisions that push development into the wilderness is contributing to more disastrous wildfires.

Climate change enhances the drying of organic matter in forests, and this has doubled the number of large fires in the Western United States between 1984 and 2015. The Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) indicates that changes in climate creates warmer, drier conditions, and in turn, increased drought and a longer fire season are boosting these increases in wildfire risk. The study further illustrates that increases in temperatures and the thirst of the atmosphere due to human–caused climate change have increased the aridity of forest fuels during the fire season.

Since the year 2000 in the United States, an annual average of 7 million acres have been burned by an annual average of 70,072 wildfires across the country, which is more than double the annual average of 3.3 million acres burned in 1990s, which is also the period that experienced the highest number of wildfires annually.

A report by the United Nations Environmental Program and GRID-Arendal states that fires are becoming both more frequent and more intense, with extreme fire projects to increase by 50% between now and 2100. The report further indicates that both climate change and land use change are contributing to this trend, and it is expected to rise globally, including in areas that were unaffected previously such as the Arctic.

A research published in November 2021 depicts that climate change is the main cause of the increase in fire weather in the Western USA. The study, in which the researchers used Artificial Intelligence to get answers, found that the warming of surface temperature contributed to 80% of the surface air vapor pressure deficit or VPD increase across the western U.S between 1979–2020. Only 32% of the increase in VPD in this region during this period was caused by changes in weather patterns, which is mostly due to natural climate variability. The remaining 68% of the increase in VPD is explained by human-caused global warming.  

We looked into this claim stating that climate change is not causing an increase in wildfires and found it to be false.

This fact-check was produced by Sky 106.1 FM with support from Code for Africa’s PesaCheck, International Fact-Checking Network, and African Fact Checking Alliance network.

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