How do we adapt to a hotter planet?

Forest fire

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Researchers around the world agree: the Earth is getting hotter, extreme weather such as heat waves and prolonged droughts increase the risk of wildfires. The Wildfires in the Anthropocene group at the Pufendorf Institute connects researchers from Lund University who study fire from different perspectives: climate change, health, environmental safety, fire safety, and biodiversity.

Every year the wildfire season lengthens in California, fires in the Amazon and Australia increase dramatically and this summer, big fires took over southern Europe. These more extreme and unpredictable fires occur more frequently and are more difficult to fight.

The Wildfires in the Anthropocene group at the Pufendorf Institute connects researchers from across Lund University. Together, they want to investigate the reasons and effects of forest fires.

Forest fires: a revelation?

“We can’t ignore forest fires,” says Lina Eklund, a researcher at the Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Sciences and the Middle East Center for Advanced Studies.

“We can see how the damage affects us acutely, maybe it’s an eye opener for us – start more discussions about climate change on Earth. Wildfires are here to stay. How do we learn to live with it and what to do?” should we do to reduce the number of fires?”

The debate about the causes forest fires It is underway on several levels. Should researchers rely on hard environmental data or do they need to investigate how political and economic systems govern and affect the climate?

Political scientist Pinar Dinc, from the Center for Advanced Studies in the Middle East, investigates the relationship between conflicts and fires in the Middle East. Can we find correlations between various levels of conflict and the increasing incidence of fires? A deeper analysis of the underlying reasons for the conflicts, and climate change It has attracted more attention in recent years.

“However, it’s not easy. Who or what really starts a fire? Is it the state, a marginalized group of people, the drought? As far as we know, political issues combined with environmental factors cause wildfires.”

political pressure

Lina Eklund specializes in remote analytics, in which she studies satellite images and data, allowing her to see what has happened to large areas of land over time. It is work that she has applied to conflict zones in the Middle East, where political and religious factors are often analyzed.

“I focus on seeing how the landscape, for example agricultural land, changes over time. My research also shows that when conflicts escalate and more people die, the number of fires also increases.”

Both Lina Eklund and Pinar Dinc point out that the deforestation that occurs after a big fire challenges society to find new ways of life and that puts political pressure on change.

“The more we work in this area, the more I think about how groups, and particularly marginalized groups, need to resist what is happening on their land,” says Pinar Dinc.

With the help of satellite images, Lina Eklund has been able to see fires around Chernobyl. Fires that were presumably caused by the conflict in the area. These fires could trigger the release of radioactive particles that have been in the ground since the 1986 nuclear accident.

“What do these fires mean in terms of these dangerous substances that could end up in the atmosphere? Previous fires around Chernobyl have not caused the release of particles at dangerous levels, but it is scary that it could burn in an area as critical as this one. “

fires without borders

Fire does not respect national borders; a Forest fire It can spread from one country to another. Buildings are destroyed, agricultural land is wasted, and forced migration can result. How do we face it, what strategies are needed in each country individually and together, internationally? In several countries there is a lack of centralization, which became very evident in Sweden during the hot summer of 2018. About 50 fires broke out and to control the situation, the EU helped in the fight against fires with resources from Italy, France and other places. And it’s that kind of cooperation that Pinar Dinc and Lina Eklund hope to see.

“It is important that we broaden our perspectives within the investigation as well, and look at the political and economic factors that may be causing the fires. However, it is frustrating that researchers produce data that could be used to improve the world, but politicians are not always receptive,” says Pinar Dinc.

Lina Eklund and Pinar Dinc envision a future where we learn more about what causes wildfires and how to fight them, while finding ways to live with these fires to better adapt our societies to a warmer world.

“In the end, it is not nature that will be destroyed, but humanity. Nature will always be the winner”, says Pinar Dinc.

Provided by
Lund University

Citation: World on Fire: How do we adapt to a hotter planet? (2022, November 14) Retrieved November 14, 2022 from

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