Q&A: How scientists tackle the challenges of estimating wildfire CO2 emissions

Smoke rises from the land, filling an orange sky

Wildfires – and their emissions – have made headlines around the world this year.

From the otherworldly haze that blanketed much of the US east coast in June to the devastating fire that ripped through Hawaii’s Maui in early August, the impacts of fire are becoming increasingly tangible beyond typically fire-prone regions.

Wildfires are fuelled, in part, by climate change. But they also change the climate, emitting around 5.3bn tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere in 2022 – more than any country contributed from fossil-fuel burning that year, except China.

Continue reading on Carbon Brief.

Fossil fuels are everywhere. How quickly could we actually phase them out?

Climate activists—and the U.N. Secretary-General—are calling for an end to fossil fuels. It could happen faster than you might think.

Smokestacks release plumes of exhaust into an orange sky

The world just lived through the hottest summer on record. Off the coast of Florida, the ocean temperature hit triple digits, killing coral reefs. Greece battled record wildfires. The extreme rain in Libya—where at least 11,000 people died in floods after dams collapsed—was made 50 times more likely by climate change. Phoenix spent 31 days above 110 degrees. Sea ice in Antarctica shrank to a record low, prompting what scientists called a “five-sigma event” that killed as many as 10,000 penguin chicks.

Despite the fact that extreme climate impacts are already obvious, most companies and countries are still making only incremental changes to cut emissions (or, in some cases, are moving backward, like in the U.K., where the prime minister now wants to slow down plans to move to electric vehicles). But what would be possible if we committed to actually moving fast on climate action beginning with the largest challenge: phasing out fossil fuels?

Read more on Fast Company.

Exploring Arctic sustainability: Enhancing resilience, addressing land degradation and permafrost thaw through Indigenous empowerment

Three people looking and pointing at a map on a table

For an entire week in Arendal, a town on the Southern tip of Norway, a Lavvu stood high on a hill, overlooking the seaside town below. Every year since 2012, the political world of Norway has convened for Arendalsuka, a weeklong celebration of Norwegian democracy known for open-air and open-access discussions between civil society, political parties, and wide-ranging public interest groups. Yet this year, the sight of this Lavvu–a traditional nomadic tent of the Sami people—was far less striking than the sounds emanating from within: empowered voices of Arctic Indigenous youth leaders speaking directly to government officials, civil society, and institutional experts on the need for urgent action to address land conflicts, land degradation, and permafrost thaw across the circumpolar North.

Read more on Harvard Belfer Center’s website.

Legal mining sites in Brazil store 2.55 gigatonnes of CO2 in vegetation and soil, study estimates

Researchers at the University of São Paulo highlight the importance of monitoring these areas and advocate the use of technosols based on tailings and other waste to offset part of their emissions.

Mining activity cuts into a hillside

As global temperatures continue to reach all-time highs and discussions intensify about ways to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ-USP) in Brazil have reported the results of a scientific study showing that if all the country’s active legal mining sites continue to operate in the coming decades, emissions will total an estimated 2.55 gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide (Gt CO2eq) due to loss of vegetation (0.87 Gt CO2eq) and soil (1.68 Gt CO2eq). This total corresponds to about 5% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Read more on EurekAlert!

The loss of Arctic sea ice has been a conspicuous hallmark of climate change. But the rate of loss slowed after sea ice extent hit a record low in summer 2012, even though global and Arctic warming continued unabated. New research by an international team of scientists explains what’s behind that perplexing trend. The findings indicate that the stall is linked to an atmospheric wind pattern known as the Arctic dipole, and that stronger declines in sea ice extent will likely resume when the dipole reverses itself in its naturally recurring cycle.

The many environmental responses to the Arctic dipole are described in a paper published recently in the journal

Addis Ababa will likely face increased heatwaves, droughts and severe flooding over the next 67 years. These changes will pose risks to public health and infrastructure. They’ll also be felt most acutely by the Ethiopian capital’s most vulnerable residents: those living in informal settlements.

Addis Ababa is one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa, and its current metropolitan population of about 5.4 million is projected to reach close to 9 million by 2035.

Continue reading on African Arguments.

Deadly humid heatwaves to spread rapidly as climate warms – study

Small rise in global temperatures would affect hundreds of millions of people and could cause a sharp rise in deaths

A rotating fan with blue blades

Life-threatening periods of high heat and humidity will spread rapidly across the world with only a small increase in global temperatures, a study has found, which could cause a sharp acceleration in the number of deaths resulting from the climate crisis.

The extremes, which can be fatal to healthy people within six hours, could affect hundreds of millions of people unused to such conditions. As a result, heat deaths could rise quickly unless serious efforts to prepare populations were undertaken urgently, the researcher said.

Read more on The Guardian.

Alaska firefighters experiment with targeting blazes to save carbon

The Bureau of Land Management pilot program represents a shift designed to help curb climate change

A recently-burned boreal forest

Firefighters are embarking on an ambitious experiment to stamp out blazes deep in the Alaskan wilderness as a way to avert carbon emissions in what experts say is a seismic shift in thinking in modern wildfire management that has traditionally focused only on fires that threaten human life, property or commercial interests.

Read more on The Washington Post.