Fires in Europe 2022: CO2 Equals 10M Cars


The data collected by the European Forest Fire Information System speak of over 2,700 fires in Europe, with 9 megatonnes of carbon diffused in the air. In Italy alone the fires produced CO2 equal to about 5 million barrels of oil

2022 has been a hellish year fire-wise. In just one year, according to data collected and processed by Effis, the European Forest Fire Information System, during the whole of last year, 2,709 fires occurred in Europe, a figure that represents more than three times the average of the last 17 years.

The phenomenon, facilitated by drought periods and the increase in areas at risk, fits strongly into the scenario of climate change and certainly represents one of the main consequences of the increase in temperatures.

A vicious circle is triggered, whereby the huge masses of CO2 emitted by the combustion of forests in turn increase global warming.

Total emissions from bushfires in the European Union and the United Kingdom in 2022 amounted to 9 megatonnes of carbon, equivalent to those emitted by 10 million cars in the same period, the highest level recorded since 2007. Italian Society of Environmental Medicine (Sima) which today calculates the impact of fires on the environment and health.

“One million tons of CO2 released only by the fires that occurred in July in Greece are equivalent to the emissions deriving from the combustion of 2.3 million barrels of oil, or 103 million liters of diesel – explains the president Alessandro Miani -. For comparison, just think that in Italy in the whole of 2022 fires produced 1 million and 900 thousand tons of CO2, equal to about 5 million barrels of oil, i.e. how much is burned in Italy to produce electricity for just under a week Not to mention the 2,750 tons of nitrogen oxides and 7,500 tons of PM 2.5 emitted in the same period due to fires in our country”.

Man has triggered climatic changes which in turn are responsible for temperatures such as to favor the succession of fires capable of fueling climate-altering gas emissions even more negatively. – continues Miani -. Combustion due to fire releases toxic substances into the atmosphere which can fall back into the areas more or less adjacent to the fire itself. For some of these compounds, the toxicity is recognized both by the scientific community and by various studies which demonstrate how the concentration of chemical compounds released into the atmosphere represents a danger from an environmental and health point of view.

Among these, the most dangerous are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), which can remain in the air and fall back to the ground even after the fire has gone out, near the burned area or even at a distance based on the intensity and direction of the winds”.

What to do? A modeling study conducted by Istituto Oikos shows how good fire-smart landscape management practices (actions aiming to reduce flammable biomass and increase environmental diversity with landscape restoration actions) on just 5% of high-risk territory are effective in reducing the area burned by 14% annually, consequently also reducing CO2 emissions for compliance with the climate neutrality objectives set for 2050, concludes Sima.

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