7 key takeaways on forest fires from the new IPCC report

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published the Synthesis Report of the IPCC 6th Assessment Report. It summarises the state of knowledge on climate change, its widespread impacts and risks, and on mitigation and adaptation. What is new in this 6th report? Unfortunately, not much, but it is an opportunity to reflect on the impact of climate change on forest and fire risk. Here are the 7 key takeaways from the report!

No. 1 – the human factor: Human activity is likely to have increased the risk of compound extreme events since the 1950s. These extreme events include heat waves and droughts, fires and floods.

No. 2 – the level of warming in the 21st century: Given current policies to reduce greenhouse gases, it is likely that global warming will exceed 1.5°C in the 21st century, and that it will be difficult to keep it below 2°C.

No. 3 – the effect on carbon sinks: If greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, carbon sinks such as forests will become less effective in storing CO2. In addition, the increase in forest fires as a result of climate change will further increase the flux of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, releasing the CO2 that has been stored so far.

No. 4 – the increase in compound events: With each increment of warming, the impacts and risks of climate change will become more complex and difficult to manage. Many regions are projected to experience an increase in the likelihood of compound events with higher global warming, such as concurrent heat waves and droughts, compound floods and fire weather.

No. 5 – the near-term impacts of 1.5°C of warming: With 1.5°C of warming, damage from forest fires is expected to increase, while water scarcity will worsen.

No. 6 – the consequences with more than 2°C of warming: With warming of 2°C or more, many climate events will accelerate, including drought and fires. Heat waves and droughts will become more severe.

No. 7 – the considerable impacts of a 4°C warming scenario: With a warming of 4°C or more, in the worst-case scenario, changes in natural systems will be considerable. Biome changes are expected over about 35% of the Earth’s surface, with significant impacts on forests and their ecosystems. In addition, at this level of global warming, the global area burned is expected to increase by 50-70% and the frequency of fires is expected to increase by about 30% compared to today, as already highlighted in the IPCC’s 2022 Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report.

This new IPCC report once again highlights the urgent need for climate change mitigation and adaptation. In a context of increasing fire risk, FIRE-RES aims to develop this integrated fire management approach in order to make landscapes and communities more resilient to such Extreme Wildfire Events. Together with foresters, researchers, emergency services and various forest stakeholders we are developing 34 innovations in 11 Living Labs.

Author: Blandine Camus (Euromontana)