The California wildfires of 2020-which resulted in the burning more than 4 million acres-emitted twice as much greenhouse gas (GHG) into the atmosphere as the state's total reductions over nearly two decades, according to a new study published by Environmental Pollution.
Between 2003 and 2019, GHG emissions in the Golden State were reduced by 13% "driven largely by reductions in the electric power generation sector." However, "emissions from wildfires in 2020 essentially cancel out 18 years of reductions in emissions of these gases," the research stated.
Poor fire prevention
The researchers found that GHG emissions are twice as high as the total reductions since 2003. They further noted that wildfires are the second " most important " greenhouse gas emission " source" in the state after transportation and "appear likely to increase with future climate change." Between 2000 and 2019, the California Air Resources Board(CARB) indicated that the state' s number one source of emissions was transportation, which accounted for 41%.
The study concluded that although wildfires do not occur every day of the year. "It is still important to track emissions to ensure that short- and medium-term reduction targets are met." The researchers added that forest management practices focus more on fire suppression than prevention, which "likely increases the risk of large, destructive wildfires."
A state of "zero net GHG emissions".
Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that aims to bring the state to "net zero greenhouse gas emissions" by 2045 at the latest. And CARB also announced earlier this year that the state will ban the sale of most gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.
However, California officials acknowledge that more intense fire seasons have been generated across the state since 2015. According to Cal Fire, 15 of the 20 most destructive wildfires in the state have occurred in the last 7 years.
Damages caused by emissions from wildfires in 2020 amount to about $7.1 billion.