Editor’s note: Great job, Nick!
There’s been a lot of hand wringing lately among federal officials about American forests, climate change and the “new normal” of longer and unnaturally severe wildfire seasons. Scientific evidence suggests climate change is contributing to profound ecological changes in our forests. If policymakers are serious about mitigating these impacts and reducing carbon emissions, they should support efforts to actively manage our federal forests and reduce the size and severity of wildfires.
Wildfire seasons are now on average 78 days longer than the 1970s, and there’s been a sevenfold increase in fires of 10,000 acres or more. Carbon emissions are expected to increase by 50 percent by 2050, according to university and federal researchers. This is not a new problem, as NASA estimates that carbon emissions from fires are up 240 percent across the American West since the 1980s. One study estimates that fires in the U.S. release about 290 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of California found that wildfires can contribute a larger proportion of the carbon dioxide released in several western and southeastern states.