Explained: The Relationship Between Climate Change and Wildfires
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Explained: The Relationship Between Climate Change and Wildfires

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The relationship between climate change and wildfires explained

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How Climate Change is Influencing Wildfires

Each year, thousands of wildfires burn through millions of acres of land around the world.

We’ve already seen the mass devastation that wildfires can bring, especially in places like Australia, Serbia, and California. But new research by the UN indicates that things might get even worse by the end of the century. By 2100, the frequency of wildfires could increase by up to 50%.

What’s causing this influx of wildfires around the world? Below, we dig into how climate change is impacting wildfires—and how in turn, wildfires are impacting climate change.

Climate Conditions That Support Wildfires

Before diving in, it’s worth going over the basics of wildfires, and how they get started in the first place. An area’s vulnerability to wildfires, also known as its fire regime, depends on three major conditions: its atmosphere, vegetation, and ignitions.

① Atmosphere

Atmosphere plays a big part in how sensitive an area is to wildfires. For instance, wind can increase oxygen supply in an area, which would help fuel a wildfire, and may even transfer embers to new locations.

② Vegetation

Vegetation is also a huge factor in whether or not an area is vulnerable to wildfires. A region with drier vegetation may catch fire more easily, and an area with more forest or shrubs provides more fuel for potential blazes.

③ Ignitions

An area that’s close to volcanic activity, or prone to lightning storms may be more susceptible to wildfires. However, human activity like campfires or faulty equipment can also trigger fires, so popular areas for camping or logging may be at higher risk as well.

While these conditions vary depending on the location, in general, fire regimes are being impacted by climate change, which is causing an influx in the duration and intensity of wildfires around the world.

The Fire Climate Feedback Loop

Since the 1850s, global surface temperatures have risen by about 1.0°C (1.8°F).

These increased surface temperatures have had far-reaching impacts on our climate—in the Northern Hemisphere, warmer temperatures have led to less snow, earlier arrival of spring, and ultimately longer, drier fire seasons.

These longer fire seasons have led to an influx of wildfires. But here’s the kicker—wildfires emit tons of carbon. In 2021, wildfires around the world emitted an estimated 1.76 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which for context, is more than double the annual emissions from the entire country of Germany.

This carbon gets trapped in our atmosphere and contributes to rising surface temperatures. In other words, more carbon creates more wildfires—and more wildfires create more carbon.

Extreme Weather Events Are Rising In General

It’s not just wildfires that are growing in frequency and intensity because of climate change—droughts, heatwaves, and floods are also becoming more common around the world.

This year, temperatures reached all-time highs across Europe, which wrecked havoc across the continent, impacted infrastructure, and even took lives.

Experts warn that this may become the new normal. To help mitigate risk, governments, policymakers, and companies need to band together to create safeguards and establish proper preventative measures.

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Agriculture

Charted: U.S. Egg Prices More Than Double in 2022

This chart shows the increase in the national average price of a dozen Grade A eggs in the U.S. in 2022.

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This chart shows the increase in the national average price of a dozen grade-A eggs in the U.S. in 2022.

Charted: U.S. Egg Prices Double in 2022

Eggs are a staple food for many countries around the world, and the U.S. is no exception. Americans eat between 250‒280 eggs a year on average.

Eggs are also easy to cook, protein-dense and supply many daily vitamins needed for healthy living, making them a popular meal or ingredient. So when egg prices rise, people notice.

MetalytIQ charted the rapid rise of egg prices in the U.S. during 2022, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS).

Eggs-asperating Prices

Over the course of 12 months, the national average price for a dozen large Grade A eggs more than doubled, to $4.25 in December from $1.93 in January.

Egg Prices Per Month (2022)Price per dozen
January$1.30
February$2.10
March$2.50
April$2.52
May$2.86
June$2.71
July$2.94
August$3.12
September$2.90
October$3.42
November$3.59
December$4.25

The biggest culprit has been an avian flu outbreak that resulted in 43 million chickens culled to prevent the spread of the disease.

This led to a severe shortfall in egg supply. Egg inventories in December had fallen by one-third compared to January. Combined with increasing demand during the holiday season, prices skyrocketed and empty shelves became apparent in some states.

This is not the first time avian flu has disrupted the industry.. In 2015, a similar outbreak pushed egg prices up 40% in nine months, reaching a high of $2.97 per dozen eggs in September 2015.

Will Egg Prices Drop in 2023?

Avian flu isn’t the only storm the egg industry has been facing in 2022.

The prices of soybean and corn—the main components of bird feed—account for half of the cost of eggs. They’ve been heavily affected by the war in Ukraine, which has driven grain prices higher.

In the near-term, egg prices are expected to remain high. Containing the avian flu outbreak will remain the biggest factor in determining the prices, but as suppliers increase production, prices may cool off a little in 2023.

Eggs and dairy make up nearly 10% of the average person’s daily calorie intake. Check out the rest of our dietary make-up in Visualizing a Rapidly Changing Global Diet.
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