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Wildfires set to increase by 50%

Wildfires are expected to increase by 50% by 2100, UN experts warn. 

The report, Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires, finds an elevated risk for the Arctic and other regions previously unaffected by wildfires. 

The report calls on governments to adopt a new ‘Fire Ready Formula,’ with two-thirds of spending devoted to planning, prevention, preparedness, and recovery, with one-third left for response. 

Currently, direct responses to wildfires typically receive over half of the related expenditures, while planning and prevention receive less than 1%

To prevent fires, the authors call for a combination of data and science-based monitoring systems with indigenous knowledge and for stronger regional and international cooperation. 

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Wildfires disproportionately affect the world’s poorest nations. With an impact that extends for days, weeks, and even years after the flames subside, they impede progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals and deepen social inequalities:

  • People’s health is directly affected by inhaling wildfire smoke, causing respiratory and cardiovascular impacts and increased health effects for the most vulnerable;
  • The economic costs of rebuilding after areas are struck by wildfires can be beyond the means of low-income countries;
  • Watersheds are degraded by wildfires’ pollutants; they also can lead to soil erosion causing more problems for waterways;
  • Wastes left behind are often highly contaminated and require appropriate disposal.

The report concludes with a call for stronger international standards for the safety and health of firefighters and for minimising the risks that they face before, during, and after operations. This includes raising awareness of the risks of smoke inhalation, minimising the potential for life-threatening entrapments, and providing firefighters with access to adequate hydration, nutrition, rest, and recovery between shifts.

 

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