Wildfires in Siberia Force Government To Declare An Emergency

A wildfire burning in Russia’s northern Siberia region.  Photo: Reuters, via CBS News

By Alexandra Patel and Monica Medina

Wildfires raging across Siberia this year have reached historic levels — It is estimated that the fires released 300 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in July, the most since satellite records began around two decades ago. In response, the government declared a state of emergency for five regions of Siberia — with the “acrid smoke” impacting both small settlements and “major cities in Western Siberia and the Altai region as well as the Urals such as Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg,” and even disrupting air travel.

  • In reaction, 1 million people within the area signed a petition demanding government action.  Many people are falling ill with respiratory problems due to the smoke.
  • While some firefighters have been deployed to fight the flames, mostly the government is just monitoring the fires because apparently, they do not have the money to contain them.
  • 12 million hectares of forest have been destroyed by the wildfires, while 3 million hectares are still currently engulfed in flames.

Why This Matters: Alexander Uss, the governor of the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, stated in response to the growing wildfires, “This is a normal, natural phenomenon. It’s pointless to fight it and perhaps even in some places also harmful,” according to the RIA news. While wildfires in themselves are natural, the growing incidence and intensity of the fires are exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change. As we reported last month, across many parts of Alaska and Canada fires are burning well above the Arctic circle at unprecedented rates and times in the year. The smoke from the Arctic fires has even now begun to reach neighboring Kazakhstan.  These devastating fires in Siberia once again demonstrate that climate change is a global problem demanding funding, actions, and solutions at all levels — local, regional, national and international.  

An Environmental Catastrophe.

Triggered by dry thunderstorms and temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the fires were then spread by strong winds across the different regions of Siberia. Beyond the devastating short term effects, like the destroyed lands and clouds of noxious fumes in the air making it difficult for people in the region to breathe, environmentalists particularly fear the potential long-term effects of such frequent and intense wildfires – the acceleration of Arctic melting.

Moreover, CBS News recently reported that according to a recent study, as the climate continues to warm, wildfires will grow exponentially. This creates a vicious cycle, as carbon accumulated over hundreds and thousands of years is being released into the atmosphere as trees and even dried-out peat continues to burn.

Up Next

Can a New Satellite Company Shore Up Forest Carbon Offsets?

Can a New Satellite Company Shore Up Forest Carbon Offsets?

Corporations attempting to reduce their carbon footprint in the short run are restoring forests as a way of offsetting the carbon they release into the atmosphere. But some of these initiatives may be less effective than advertised. They are alleged to have inflated the amount of carbon saved from corporate ownership or claimed to protect land that was never under threat of logging. 

Why this Matters:  In 2020, companies bought more than 93 million carbon credits, equivalent to the pollution from 20 million cars in a year, a 33% increase over 2019.

Continue Reading 418 words
U.S., Britain, Norway Announce Coalition to Protect Tropical Forests

U.S., Britain, Norway Announce Coalition to Protect Tropical Forests

On the first day of President Biden’s Global Climate Summit, the United States, Britain, and Norway announced that they are teaming up with the world’s most influential companies to incentivize nations to protect tropical forests by mobilizing at least $1 billion this year for large-scale projects. 

Why This Matters: Tropical forests are one of the world’s largest carbon sinks and one of the most quickly deteriorating.

Continue Reading 472 words
Mexican President López Obrador to Propose Cooperative Immigration Plan During Climate Summit

Mexican President López Obrador to Propose Cooperative Immigration Plan During Climate Summit

As President Biden’s April 22 climate summit approaches, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico has announced by video that he will propose a new migration agreement between the nations of North America this week. This proposal would ask Central American and Mexican emigrants to work planting trees and crops in Mexico for three years in exchange for a six-month U.S. work visa and eventually the right to apply for U.S. citizenship. 

Why This Matters: As global temperatures warm, there will be a surge of predominantly impoverished climate refugees and migrants to many countries including here.

Continue Reading 641 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.