Up in Flames: How Fossil Fuel Emissions are Fueling Western Wildfires

Up in Flames: How Fossil Fuel Emissions are Fueling Western Wildfires

It's a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest, and you're out hiking when you notice something strange in the distance.

A thick plume of smoke is rising from behind the trees, and as you get closer, you can feel the heat of the flames.

It's a wildfire, and it's spreading quickly.

But what if we told you that these wildfires are not just a natural occurrence, but are actually linked to human activity?

A recent study has found that emissions from the world's largest fossil fuel and cement companies are contributing to the worsening of wildfires in western North America.

The research found that over a third of the total area burned by forest fires in the western United States and southwestern Canada since 1986 is attributable to the so-called "Carbon Majors".

"Carbon Majors" - the 88 largest fossil fuel and cement companies that have contributed a majority of the carbon emissions warming the planet.

These emissions are contributing to atmospheric drying, which can cause a decrease in soil moisture, making vegetation more flammable and increasing the likelihood of severe wildfires.

The study revealed that Carbon Majors' emissions contribute to almost 50% of the long-term increase in atmospheric drying, which dries out vegetation, and causing more severe fires.

The study has important implications for corporate climate accountability and may help bolster litigation aimed at holding fossil fuel producers liable for climate-related damages.

The study’s results offer strong evidence of how fossil fuel emissions exacerbate wildfires, facilitating lawsuits to hold the industry accountable for climate change damages.

The research can strengthen climate accountability lawsuits by providing clear evidence linking emissions from the world’s leading carbon producers to wildfire events across western North America.

Wildfire is mentioned in almost half of the lawsuits filed by US states, cities, and counties holding fossil fuel producers responsible for deception and worsening climate impacts.

The study raises questions about who bears responsibility for wildfire-related harms, especially the financial burden that is currently borne by the general public.

The authors of the study argue that at least some of that responsibility should be placed on the fossil fuel industry.

Since the 1960s, the industry has been aware of the climate impact of their products, yet denied it publicly, spread climate disinformation, and blocked policy action.

As wildfires continue to ravage western North America, the study offers a stark reminder of the urgent need to transition to a low-carbon economy and protect our planet for future generations.

It's time for the fossil fuel industry to take responsibility for its role in worsening wildfires and work towards a sustainable future.