Explained: The Relationship Between Climate Change and Wildfires
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.
The Carbon Emissions of Gold Mining
Gold has a long history as a precious metal, but just how many carbon emissions does mining it contribute to?
The Carbon Emissions of Gold Mining
As companies progress towards net-zero goals, decarbonizing all sectors, including mining, has become a vital need.
Gold has a long history as a valuable metal due to its rarity, durability, and universal acceptance as a store of value. However, traditional gold mining is a process that is taxing on the environment and a major contributor to the increasing carbon emissions in our atmosphere.
The above infographic from our sponsor Nature’s Vault provides an overview of the global carbon footprint of gold mining.
The Price of Gold
To understand more about the carbon emissions that gold mining contributes to, we need to understand the different scopes that all emissions fall under.
In the mining industry, these are divided into three scopes.
- Scope 1: These include direct emissions from operations.
- Scope 2: These are indirect emissions from power generation.
- Scope 3: These cover all other indirect emissions.
With this in mind, let’s break down annual emissions in CO2e tonnes using data from the World Gold Council as of 2019. Note that total emissions are rounded to the nearest 1,000.
|1||Mining, milling, concentrating and smelting||45,490,000|
|3||Suppliers, goods, and services||25,118,000|
Total annual emissions reach around 126,359,000 CO2e tonnes. To put this in perspective, that means that one year’s worth of gold mining is equivalent to burning nearly 300 million barrels of oil.
Gold in Nature’s Vault
A significant portion of gold’s downstream use is either for private investment or placed in banks. In other words, a large amount of gold is mined, milled, smelted, and transported only to be locked away again in a vault.
Nature’s Vault is decarbonizing the gold mining sector for both gold and impact investors by eliminating the most emission-intensive part of the mining process—mining itself.
By creating digital assets like the NaturesGold Token and the Pistol Lake NFT that monetize the preservation of gold in the ground, emissions and the environmental damage associated with gold mining are avoided.
How Does it Work?
Through the same forms of validation used in traditional mining by Canada’s National Instrument NI 43-101 and Australia’s Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC), Nature’s Vault first determines that there is gold in an ore body.
Then, using blockchain and asset fractionalization, the mineral rights and quantified in-ground gold associated with these mineral rights are tokenized.
This way, gold for investment can still be used without the emission-intensive process that goes into mining it. Therefore, these digital assets are an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional gold investments.
Click here to learn more about gold in Nature’s Vault.
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