COP28 is underway in Dubai, and countries will be taking stock of how much carbon they are emitting into the atmosphere. On Thursday, Chinese scientists published new research that suggests including emissions from forest fires into the accounting system. Chen Mengfei reports.
Forests are essential for absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. Yet extreme forest fires are severely weakening that function.
ZHU JIAOJUN Director, Shenyang Institute of Applied Ecology Chinese Academy of Sciences "Extreme forest fires lead to carbon emissions, which in turn exacerbates the warming of the climate."
The Chinese Academy of Sciences published a report on Thursday, showing over the past 22 years (2001-2022), forest fires burned an average of 46.95 million hectares around the world each year.
That's 11 times the average annual increase in plantation areas during the same period.
Average CO2 emissions per year from forest fires globally reached 1.54 billion tons from 2001 to 2022, making forest fires a significant carbon emission source that cannot be ignored.
But they are not included in the current accounting system set by the UN climate body, the IPCC, which mainly looks at post-industrial revolution human activities, in other words man-made emissions.
ZHU JIAOJUN Director, Shenyang Institute of Applied Ecology Chinese Academy of Sciences "So our first suggestion is to include forest fires in a comprehensive carbon accounting system, and to make sure the risk of extreme forest fires is incorporated into the forest sink carbon trading system."
The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of preventing extreme forest fires, which is a complex endeavor that requires more scientific research and global cooperation.
ZHU JIAOJUN Director, Shenyang Institute of Applied Ecology Chinese Academy of Sciences "Extreme forest fires are a natural disaster. Currently the consensus is that it is uncontrollable; we humans don't have control. But like I said earlier, forest fires need three conditions to occur, one is the presence of combustible material, one is the source of fire, these two things are partly controllable. In other words, if forest fires are considered a natural disaster in the ecosystem, then it is relatively the most human-controllable disaster."
From 2001 to 2022, annual average CO2 emissions from forest fires in China was 10 million tons, showing a clear downward trend, thanks to long-term forest fire prevention and control policies.
CHEN MENGFEI Shenyang "Chinese scientists say they look forward to feedback from the global scientific community on these findings and proposals. Chen Mengfei, CGTN, Shenyang." (CGTN)
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