Aug 13, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Wildfire CO2 emissions are adding up

June to August CO2 wildfire emissions
Data: CAMS/Mark Parrington; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Wildfires are raging in Canada, the U.S. and Siberia, emitting carbon dioxide, soot, and other planet-warming pollutants, while also destroying homes and fouling air quality. Now new data shows just how large the fires' carbon footprint may be.

Why it matters: The wildfires in these three regions are likely to continue to burn until the onset of winter snows (some could persist through the winter as zombie fires).

  • Until then, they will continue to emit greenhouse gases. The Siberian fires alone are emitting as much as individual countries do in a year, according to data from the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS).

By the numbers: According to Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at CAMS, the two Canadian provinces contributing the most fire-related carbon dioxide emissions are British Columbia and Saskatchewan, while the Sakha Republic and Far Eastern Federal District of Russia are emitting the greatest amounts in Russia.

  • So far, the Siberian fires have emitted total emissions of about 1613.00 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent gases, which is on par with Indonesia's annual emissions in 2019, per numbers from The Rhodium Group.
  • It's also higher than emissions last year from Siberian fires, which was also an unusually severe fire season.
  • Smoke from the Siberian fires has crossed the Arctic over the North Pole and into Canada.
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