Fire an integral part of global climate change, say scientists

April 24th, 2009 - 3:40 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 24 (ANI): In a new study, scientists have determined that fire must be accounted for as an integral part of global climate change.

The study identifies significant contributions of fire to climate change and identifies feedbacks between fire and climate change.

The researchers determined that intentional deforestation fires alone contribute up to one-fifth of the human-caused increase in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), a heat-trapping gas that increases global temperature.

Increasing numbers of wildfires are influencing climate as well, the authors of the study report.

“The tragic fires in Victoria, Australia, emphasize the ubiquity of recent large wildfires and potentially changing fire regimes that are concomitant with anthropogenic climate change,” said David Bowman of the University of Tasmania. “Our review is both timely and of great relevance globally,” he added.

Carbon dioxide is the most important and well-studied greenhouse gas that is emitted by burning plants.

However, methane, aerosol particulates in smoke, and the changing reflectance of a charred landscape each contribute to changes in the atmosphere caused by fire.

Consequences of large fires have huge economic, environmental, and health costs, report the authors.

According to the researchers, “Earth is intrinsically a flammable planet due to its cover of carbon-rich vegetation, seasonally dry climates, atmospheric oxygen, widespread lightning and volcano ignitions.”

“Yet, despite the human species’ long-held appreciation of this flammability, the global scope of fire has been revealed only recently by satellite observations available beginning in the 1980s,” they said.

The study authors acknowledge that their estimate of fire’s influence on climate is just a start, and they highlight major research gaps that must be addressed in order to understand the complete contribution of fire to the climate system.

Nevertheless, they call on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to fully integrate fire into their assessments of global climate change, and consider fire-climate feedbacks, which have been largely absent in global models. (ANI)

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