Are trees a climate “time bomb”?
Trees: many of us plant them as a way of engaging in climate action; others purchase carbon ‘offsets’ in the form of protected forested areas. Whatever your relation to them, trees are a widespread symbol of a healthy planet. What happens, however, when they burn and release all the stored carbon that makes them such great carbon sinks?
Satellite images have shown that wildfires in boreal forests, those at high latitudes, have increased significantly over the past two decades. Wildfires in these regions have typically comprised 10% of the planet’s terrain fires, but in 2021 the number skyrocketed to 23%. Worryingly, these northern forests are also 10-20 times more carbon-dense than other ecosystems, This increase is largely kindled by other aspects of the climate crisis, including drought and heat waves that are ravaging the northern regions and priming conditions to burn. And burn they do. According to Steven Davis, a professor of earth sciences at UC Irvine, “Boreal forests could be a time bomb of carbon.”
With record emissions pumped into the atmosphere in 2022 despite pledges to the contrary and record temperatures this winter throughout much of the Arctic, this coming fire season is one to watch.
Check arcticrisk.org to understand how the northern regions are so sensitive to warming, and also why the rest of the world pays the price for Arctic fires. To know what you can do to change a future of these carbon time bombs, look at https://arcticrisk.org/solutions/