The estimations are in on the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from Southern California’s recent wildfires. And the winner is … somewhere between about 6 million tons and 8 million tons. Which sounds like a lot, but on average, wildfires in the United States each year spew some 300 million tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to about 5 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Threat of wildfires is widely expected to increase in the United States as climate change worsens. Research from the University of Colorado at Boulder ranked U.S. states’ forest-fire-related carbon emissions and declared that Alaska’s wildfires by far contribute the most CO2; in the Lower 48 the top 10 are California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Louisiana, Montana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Texas. The study said “A striking implication of very large wildfires is that a severe fire season lasting only one or two months can release as much carbon as the annual emissions from the entire transportation or energy sector of an individual state.” The authors estimate the California fires released more greenhouse gases than Vermont does in a year.
Get Grist in your inbox