A new class of Earth Observation and AI-driven Voluntary Carbon Credits for Forest Fire prevention and Forest Carbon Sink Regeneration: I/III
Around 1.76 billion tonnes of carbon were emitted globally from forest fires in 2021.
Total wildfire emissions from the European Union plus the United Kingdom from 1 June to 31 August 2022 are estimated to be 6.4 mega tonnes of carbon.
Copernicus ECMWF Atmosphere Monitoring Service
By Ajay Goyal, Founder @ www.forestsat.space
Two decades ago global community came together to tackle the crisis of deforestation and the resulting loss of natural carbon sinks. UN-REDD framework was created by the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) of the Parties (COP) to guide activities in the forest sector that reduces emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as the sustainable management of forests and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.
UN-REDD is the flagship UN knowledge and advisory partnership on forests and climate to reduce forest emissions and enhance forest carbon stocks. It is the largest international provider of REDD+ assistance, supporting its 65 partner countries to protect their forests and achieve their climate and sustainable development goals.
UN-REDD program has made enormous contributions to raising awareness, mobilizing governments, and arresting deforestation. In the process financing has been channeled into the preservation and conservation of forests, and sustainable ventures in the developing world.
Clearly, the battle to stop deforestation has not been won. In Glasgow COP26, the first declaration agreed to by all nations of the world was to stop mass deforestation by 2030.
UNFCCC Cop21 Declaration on Forests
We, the leaders of the countries identified below:
Emphasise the critical and interdependent roles of forests of all types, biodiversity and sustainable land use in enabling the world to meet its sustainable development goals ..
Reaffirm our respective commitments to sustainable land use, and to the conservation, protection, sustainable management and restoration of forests …
Forest Fires & Global Forest loss
Global estimates of gross forest loss from 2001 to 2018 totaled 4.2 million km2,
On average, 38 ± 9% (± range) of global forest loss was associated with fire.
Between 2013 and 2020, on average, about 42% of active fires in the Brazilian Amazon happened in areas that had never been deforested according to
-National Institute for Space Research
Compared to 2001, fires are now causing 3 million more hectares (7.4 million acres) of tree cover loss per year, amounting to an area larger than Belgium. In 2021, fires were responsible for more than one-third of all tree cover loss for the year, making it one of the worst years on record.
- Fires are now causing an additional 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of tree cover loss per year than they did in 2001, according to a newly released Global Forest Watch analysis that examined fires that burn all or most of a forest’s living overstory trees.
- The majority of all fire-caused tree cover loss in the past 20 years (nearly 70%) occurred in boreal regions. Although fires are naturally occurring there, they are now increasing at an annual rate of 3% and burning with greater frequency and severity and over larger areas than historically recorded.
- Source: Global Forest Watch
Scientists are unanimous that climate crisis is primarily to blame for the increasing fire activity.
Warmer temperatures leave landscapes drier and more flammable. Drought and heat wave conditions cause crown fires and they burn the trees down completely. Forest biomass or long-term carbon storage is damaged irreparably.
Fires also mean carbon is released from soil and vegetation into the atmosphere further contributing to global warming. Forests that are meant to take carbon from the atmosphere now exacerbate global warming in a grim fire-climate feedback loop. https://www.wri.org/insights/6-graphics-explain-climate-feedback-loop-fueling-us-fires
A comprehensive global study on wildfires by Grid-Arendal for UNEP in 2021 titled Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires, finds an elevated risk of forest fires even in regions far north, previously unaffected by wildfires.
The report states “ “Wildfires and climate change are mutually exacerbating. Wildfires are made worse by climate change through increased drought, high air temperatures, low relative humidity, lightning, and strong winds resulting in hotter, drier, and longer fire seasons. At the same time, climate change is made worse by wildfires, mostly by ravaging sensitive and carbon-rich ecosystems like peatlands and rainforests. This turns landscapes into tinderboxes, making it harder to halt rising temperatures.
Wildlife and its natural habitats are rarely spared from wildfires, pushing some animal and plant species closer to extinction. A recent example is the Australian 2020 bushfires, which are estimated to have wiped out billions of domesticated and wild animals.
- Economic Loss from wildfires is now over US$ 100 billion a year.
- The loss of animal life and the extinction of species is impossible to measure.
- Long-term health effects from toxic smoke inhalation are not even calculated properly.
- Smoke from wildfires travels far and fast. A wildfire in one region of North America or Southern Europe can have extreme consequences in a far distant region.
- A recent research report concludes that hail storms and other extreme events have been caused by fires up to 1500 miles away.
Clearly, Wildfires of the size and scale seen in the past years are extinction-level events.
While most forest fires are started by humans, the areas that burn and trees and forests at risk are a result of warming, draughts, and climate changed induced consequences.
Fire Suppression is a part of the problem
In developed countries, when it comes to wildfires, the focus is on the suppression of fires. This is done through smart firefighting, the deployment of aircraft and helicopters, and a large number of firefighters. Countries come together regularly to help each other fight massive blazes. In many cases, firefighting comes down to plain heroism. Fiore fighters risk their lives to save property, lives, and animals every day. However, overcoming these fires has proved difficult and indeed impossible. Large blazes in Australia, California, Oregon, Canada, and Siberia have burned for weeks and months despite war-like intervention for suppression. Fire suppression is also a contributing factor to large blazes, or megafires, and a part of the problem. At the turn of the previous century, the United States implemented laws to douse all wildfires within a day. Massive resources were deployed and the so-called 10 AM rule of controlling every forest fire by 10 AM of the next day was implemented. This provided employment to many, and budgets for the acquisition and requisition of a large number of aircraft. However, it did not take into account the simple factor that wildfires were a natural part of the ecosystem and essential for the renewal of forests. They killed invasive weeds, insects burned dry branches and deadwood, and renewed the forest ecosystem. Foresters have long known that the cycle of forest fires every 2 to 3 decades is normal. However, those fires were mild, regenerative, and mostly ground fires, unlike the towering infernos that are now engulfing the forests with leaping flames burning tree crowns and leaving nothing but ash in their wake. Suppression of fires meant decades of dead wood building up as fuel in the forests. Forest management at the time was not smart and not data-driven. Many regions of the world, even in the most developed countries, did not use data as a driver of decision-making. Native populations migrated away from forests and took away with their knowledge of land passed on from generation to generation. Urban sprawl grew and people became disconnected from forests. Human understanding and empathy for forests decreased with industrialization, migration, and urbanization. As a result, the forests grew haphazardly and became tinderboxes of fuel. They were ready to explode. Climate change and extreme rises in temperatures were the catalysts for fire storms and megafires. In fact, the fire seasons are now longer than ever and it has become dangerous to do prescribed or controlled burns because they too have gotten out of control.
Through a century of fire suppression, we have turned our California forests into a tinderbox, a fire accident waiting to happen. To compound this fire danger, we have heated up our climate, making the hot California summers even hotter, the seasonally dry Californian forests even drier, and the long fire season even longer.
Forest Scientist Valerie Trouet writing for The Guardian
++ Contd. at II/III ++