Conflict Alerts # 411, 21 July 2021
In the news
On 19 July, the Siberian city of Yakutsk temporarily closed the airport due to heavy smoke and wildfires. Yakutia's governor said: "The situation with wildfires in our republic is very difficult. I repeat that we are experiencing the driest summer in the past 150 years in Yakutia, and the month of June was the hottest on record. This, together with the dry thunderstorms that occur nearly daily in our republic, brought about significant wildfires."
On 18 July, the Russian Emergency Ministry said that it had deployed two amphibious aircraft to Yakutia to help tackle the fires. According to the officials, 247,000 acres of land had been engulfed by the fires in 24 hours. Also, Kremlin has said that the wildfires have been caused by climate change.
On 12 July, wildfires in California had burned 83,256 acres of land resulting in the most destructive blazes the region has ever witnessed.
On 20 July, the wildfires in Oregon had burned 300,000 acres of land near the Bootleg Spring, followed by which thousands of people were evacuated. Nearly 2,000 firefighters have been deployed to douse the fire.
Issues at large
First, the regional expansion. The wildfires have not been limited to one specific region geographically. They have been occurring throughout the globe. The US, Brazil, and Australia have witnessed deadly wildfires in recent years. Wildfires have become a global disaster.
Second, the recurrence, intensity, and duration. Wildfires have become more frequent in recent years. Regions like Australia, Brazil, the US, and Russia witness wildfires every year. Siberia has been witnessing deadly wildfires for three consecutive years. The intensity of the wildfires has also increased, resulting in the burning of more areas geographically. The fire seasons are getting longer and the fire risks are increasing. According to scientists, if human-induced climate change was not there, such an event would have occurred once every hundred years.
Third, climate change as a cause and effect. The US and Siberia witnessed a deadly heatwave that is attributed to climate change. The heatwave and extremely dry weather conditions due to anthropogenic climate change resulted in blazes in the regions. In Siberia, permafrost is thawing which can result in an unstable land surface. On the other hand, the wildfires are destroying the forests which are the natural carbon sinks, and emitting greenhouse gases due to the burning of organic matter contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the heavy smoke emitted by the burning of the forests and organic matter had resulted in poor air quality.
First, the authorities in Siberia are only dousing the fires which are affecting the people. Most of the blazes which are not affecting the people are blazing unchecked. The geographical expansion of wildfires makes it difficult for the firefighters to control the fire. Such inadequate efforts to douse the wildfire can prove to be fatal for the planet's ecosystem.
Second, the preparedness and response. Since the wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, the preparedness and response of such extreme weather events are significant. Wildfire emergency management should be efficient. Mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery should be stressed upon.
Third, the inability to control the fires. Wildfires have become a common event but the severe intensity of the wildfires makes it difficult for humans to control the blazes. However, with effective policy-making and use of technology, and effective early warning systems, wildfires can be controlled.