Wildfires are raging in Russia and Siberia, and they could have drastic consequences for the entire planet. Blazes burning in the Amur region since the start of 2018 have damaged an area around six times bigger than during the same time period in 2017, according to Greenpeace — and they have released nearly twice the annual carbon emissions of Moscow in a single month.
This spring, dry, warm conditions in Siberia have readied the area for wildfires, according to Earther — and in May, the fires have picked up in a big way. Local farmers sometimes light fires in Siberia to replenish soil nutrients or clear land, but winds can cause the fires to blaze out of control.
And more of the #AmurOblast wildfires🔥 #Russia🇷🇺 09 May 2018 #Copernicus #Sentinel-2B🛰️ Album with even more and full-size images here: https://t.co/j0NIs2BNuS #wildfire #Аму́рскаяо́бласть pic.twitter.com/ddvP1jdKTE
— Pierre Markuse (@Pierre_Markuse) May 12, 2018
Following a winter with little snow and strong winds, areas in Russia that were forests just a few decades ago have succumbed to intense wildfires. And these out-of-control fires aren’t just bad news for locals, but for people all over the Earth: experts estimate that the Amur fire has released around 110 megatons of carbon dioxide. According to Greenpeace, “Each wildfire heats up the planet. At the scale we’re seeing in Amur, that’s a large amount of CO2, and a major setback in efforts to meet Paris Climate Agreement goals.”
Soot from the wildfires also doesn’t bode well for the planet. Wind can carry black carbon to Arctic ice and snow, impairing their reflective properties, which “increases the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the surface” and “accelerates the melting of snow and ice,” Greenpeace said.
Humans are responsible for as much as 90 percent of wildfires — but this means they can also prevent them, by taking steps like completely extinguishing cigarettes or bonfires and never leaving fires unattended.