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.
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.
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.
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.
Ranked: The World’s Top Cotton Producers
As the most-used natural fiber, cotton has become the most important non-food agricultural product.
Ranked: The World’s Top Cotton Producers
Cotton is present in our everyday life, from clothes to coffee strainers, and more recently in masks to control the spread of COVID-19.
As the most-used natural fiber, cotton has become the most important non-food agricultural product. Currently, approximately half of all textiles require cotton fibers.
The above infographic lists the world’s top cotton producers, using data from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Originating from the Arabic word “quton,” meaning fancy fabric, cotton is a staple fiber made up of short fibers twisted together to form yarn.
The earliest production of cotton was around 5,000 B.C. in India, and today, around 25 million tons of cotton are produced each year.
Currently, five countries make up around 75% of global cotton production, with China being the world’s biggest producer. The country is responsible for over 23% of global production, with approximately 89 million cotton farmers and part-time workers. Cotton’s importance cannot be understated, as it is the primary input for the Chinese textile industry along with many other nations’ textile industries.
|Top Cotton Producers||2020/2021 (metric tons)||2021/2022 (metric tons)|
|🇺🇸 United States||3,181,000||3,815,000|
The United States is the leading global exporter of cotton, exporting three-fourths of its crop with China as the top buyer.
Despite its importance for the global economy, cotton production faces significant sustainability challenges.
The Controversy Over Cotton
Cotton is one of the largest users of water among all agricultural commodities, and production often involves applying pesticides that threaten soil and water quality.
Along with this, production often involves forced and child labor. According to the European Commission, child labor in the cotton supply chain is most common in Africa and Asia, where it comes from small-holder farmers.
In 2020, U.S. apparel maker Patagonia stopped sourcing cotton from the autonomous territory of Xinjiang because of reports about forced labor and other human rights abuses against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.
L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has also committed to eliminating Chinese cotton from its supply chain. Whether these changes in supply chains impact China’s cotton production and its practices, cotton remains essential to materials found across our daily lives.
Mapped: Where Does Our Food Come From?
Did you know that over two-thirds of national crops originated from somewhere else? Over time the food that built national diets has evolved.
Where Does Our Food Come From?
Did you know that over two-thirds of national crops originated from somewhere else?
Humans have been selecting and growing crops for specific traits since the origins of agriculture some 10,000 years ago, shaping where and what crops are grown today.
Now our food system is completely global and many of the world’s top producers of staple crops are in countries far from their historical origin. For example, Brazil is now the largest soybean producer in the world, though the crop is originally from East Asia.
The above infographic by Brazil Potash shows the historical origins of crops before they were domesticated across the globe and the main producers of our staple crops today.
Producers Of Staple Crops Today
Staple crops are those that are the most routinely grown and consumed. These can vary between countries depending on availability.
In 2020, sugarcane, maize, wheat, and rice made up around 50% of global crop production.
But when the production and distribution of staple crops are threatened, the consequences can be felt globally. Let’s take a look at the countries that were the top three producers of some of our staple crops in 2020.
|Crop||Country||Percentage of Global Production|
As you can see from the data above, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane and one of the top three producers of maize.
The Future of Food Security
Global food security depends on staple crops and the countries that produce them. As the global population increases, so does the need to grow more crops.
The FAO estimates that by 2050 the world will need to increase its food output by around 70% in order to feed an ever-growing population.
Early food security solutions were transplanting crops from other regions to supplement diets. Now crop yields must increase as the next evolution in strengthening our food security. Fertilizers are a vital step in this process and are an essential ingredient in the future of global food security. They provide vital nutrients that increase crop production and strengthen nutrition security.
Brazil Potash extracts vital potash ore from the earth for it to return to the earth as fertilizer, fortifying food and helping to maintain continuous growth in the agricultural sector.
Click here to learn more about fertilizer and food production in Brazil.
You may also like
Misc21 hours ago
Every Song With Over 1 Billion Spotify Streams
Spotify’s ‘Billions Club’ playlist tracks every song with over 1 billion streams. We took the data and broke it down by decade and artist.
Misc4 days ago
Countries with the Highest (and Lowest) Proportion of Immigrants
Here, we highlight countries that are magnets for immigration, such as UAE and Qatar, as well as nations with very few foreign born residents.
Datastream5 days ago
Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss
Approximately 15 billion trees are cut down annually across the world. Here’s a look at the five major drivers of forest loss. (Sponsored)
Personal Finance5 days ago
Ranked: The Best Countries to Retire In
Demographics3 weeks ago
Ranked: Gen Z’s Favorite Brands, Compared with Older Generations
Misc4 weeks ago
Visualized: Who Americans Spend Their Time With
Technology3 weeks ago
The Shrinking Trillion Dollar Market Cap Club
Markets2 weeks ago
Visualized: FTX’s Leaked Balance Sheet
Technology1 week ago
Visualizing the World’s Top Social Media and Messaging Apps
Politics3 weeks ago
Visualized: The Biggest Donors of the 2022 U.S. Midterm Elections
Misc3 weeks ago
Visualizing the Evolution of Vision and the Eye