Arctic wildfires have led the region to produce a record 244 million tonnes of CO2 so far this year – more than the UK, Italy, or France.
The fires have destroyed millions of acres, and have led the Arctic Circle to produce more CO2 by the end of August than it did in the whole of 2019.
How did this happen?
Higher temperatures caused by human-made climate change have created a situation where fires are more likely to spread, scientists at the European Union’s atmospheric monitoring service, Copernicus, told BBC News.
And senior scientist Mark Parrington noted that “warmer and drier conditions have been prevalent again this summer.”
Copernicus researchers have suggested that this led ‘zombie fires’ – which smoulder underground during winter, burning through organic material like peat – to morph into uncontrollable blazes once summer started.
How do these emissions compare?
By the end of August, the Arctic Circle – which includes parts of Russia, Scandinavia, Greenland, Alaska, Canada – had emitted more than a million tonnes of CO2 per day in 2020.
That added up to 244 million tonnes of CO2 – which is 63 tonnes more than the Arctic released last year.
How bad is the situation?
We haven’t included the top 11 polluting countries in the chart above, which means the Arctic is the 17th highest emitter of CO2 in the world.
That is ridiculous. There’s no reason why the Arctic should be a major contributor to CO2 emissions.
The 20 million km² region is home to just four million people, making its population density the third-least in the world – and 1,400 times lower than the UK.
It’s also hardly an economic powerhouse when compared to nations like Australia and the UK.
But its emissions rival those countries, thanks to man-made climate change laying the groundwork for wildfires, and Russia setting up gas and oil power stations to strip the Arctic of its resources.
If humans continue to pollute the planet and raise its temperature, these wildfires will grow and grow. This will produce more and more CO2, which will continue the vicious cycle for us and the Earth.