Skip to content
Grist home
Support nonprofit news

Climate Wildfires

Featured

Burning trees from wildfires cover the landscape in California.

 In recent years, the Western United States has become synonymous with record-breaking wildfires. But fire-driven deforestation is actually a serious problem worldwide. According to a new analysis from Global Forest Watch, forest fires are burning nearly twice as much tree cover as they did 20 years ago — a trend researchers attribute to extreme heat and drier landscapes as a result of climate change. 

Researchers analyzed nearly two decades of fire-driven tree loss data from the University of Maryland. Data shows between 2001 and 2019, Russia and Canada experienced the biggest losses in forest canopy due to fires. The United States ranked third globally, with over a quarter of its forest loss attributed to fires alone.

Forest fires are not going away any time soon, said James MacCarthy, a research analyst for World Resources Institute, which hosts the Global Forest Watch tool. Forest fires create what researchers call a “fire-climate feedback loop.” When a tree burns down, it releases previously stored carbon into the atmosphere. The more carbon in the atmosphere, the worse the effects of climate change, which only makes forested areas more suscep... Read more

All Stories