It’s that time of year again, the season of headlines routinely screaming about “record” amounts of acreage burned from out-of-control wildfires caused by, of course, “climate change.” But is it true? Is global warming driving a surge in wildfires? The answer is no.
The media started again this week with the release of the United Nation’s latest dire climate change report, based on the same faulty models and filled with more apocalyptic predictions that won’t come true.
Recent screaming headlines tell the tale:
Why the Dixie Fire won’t stop burning — Mashable
We could go on. It’s become an annual summer mantra from the media, this time driven by large wildfires that happen to coincide with the release of the U.N. report.
The truth is, in the U.S. we are not at a “record” for wildfire burning by a longshot. As the charts below show, wildfire burns were far worse in the early- to mid-20th century, with massive amounts of acreage charred before there was any significant global warming to speak of.
So based on 20th century history, the most recent fires are way below the levels in the 1920s and 1930s, when more than 50 million acres burned in some years. (The chart ends at 2017; more recent data show that from 2018 through 2020, wildfires averaged just under 7.9 million acres burned each year).
Further underscoring the spurious correlation between wildfires and climate change is a related chart presented to Congress several years back during testimony by David B. South, an emeritus professor of forestry at Auburn University. It too is enlightening, because it’s one you’ll never see in the mainstream media. It shows the same wildfire data charted above against CO2 increases back to 1926.
Again, no correlation whatsoever.
Or as South noted in his 2014 testimony to Congress:
Untrue claims about the underlying cause of wildfires can spread like ‘wildfire.’ … For example, the false idea that ‘Wildfires in 2012 burned a record 9.2 million acres in the U.S.’ is cited in numerous articles and is found on more than 2,000 web sites across the internet. In truth … in 1930, wildfires burned more than four times that amount. Wildfire in 2012 was certainly an issue of concern, but did those who push an agenda really need to make exaggerated claims to fool the public?
That doesn’t mean that wildfires don’t matter. Over the last 20 years, there has been a small uptick in their size and intensity. But why is that, if it’s not due to climate change?
Once upon a time, Americans managed their forest resources. They logged for lumber. They used controlled burns to get rid of highly combustible brushy areas. They cleared deadwood.
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