Wildfires Second-Largest Source of Emissions in California

New research quantifies the impact of wildfires on California’s air quality, indicating that bigger and more frequent fires contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.

1 minute read

October 21, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Orange hazy sky over San Francisco during wildfires

Haze blankets San Francisco during wildfires in 2020. | SvetlanaSF / Wildfire near San Francisco, California

While climate change is driving more destructive wildfires in the American West, those same fires are also emitting greenhouse gases that themselves exacerbate climate change and create pollutants harmful to people’s health, reports Ben Adler for Yahoo News.

“In total, more than 9,000 wildfires devastated the Golden State in 2020, sending smoke all the way to the East Coast. More than 4.3 million acres burned, 30 people died and economic losses topped $19 billion,” Adler explains. According to a research paper published in Environmental Pollution, emissions from wood burned in wildfires accounted for 30 percent of California’s total emissions in 2020. “In other words, 2020’s wildfire season, which set a record for the number of acres burned in the state, essentially wiped out 16 years of progress California had made on climate change through efforts such as replacing fossil fuels with clean energy.”

Wildfires also worsen air quality and aggravate respiratory illnesses. “In June, an analysis in the annual Air Quality Life Index found wildfire smoke was so bad in 2020 that it temporarily reversed the gains in air quality from decades of federal and state regulation in California.” Half of the state’s counties experienced the worst air pollution since measurements began in 1998.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022 in Yahoo News

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