By Jacqueline Katz
The European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) has just released its 2016 annual forest files report, which is the “only official source of information” on the fire count and the acreage scorched by the flames for countries in and bordering the European Union. As such, the policymaking efforts to limit the number of forest fires is heavily reliant on the data shared in these reports.
This issue has received significant attention because of the ominous future the report predicted. Researchers have picked apart the numbers and have found a “trend towards longer and more intense fire seasons in Europe and neighboring regions.” And, it is not only the routine catastrophes that come with forest fires -- depleted soil, the uprooting of families, and the destruction of homes and shelters -- that breed concern, but also the publication of a new study in the esteemed scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. The finding indicates that as wildfires continue to pollute the air and as the rate at which these natural disasters occur increase exponentially, we could start seeing substantial health-related consequences.
What can be done? European legislature on air quality currently has no mention of wildfires. Furthermore, as of now, there is no “widely accepted method for wildfire management that has been shown to lead to lasting reductions in fire activity or [pollution].”
On a lighter note, more and more countries have agreed to come together in an effort to effectively limit emissions. Participation in the JRC report started with just five European Union member states in 2000 and has grown, over the past decade-plus, to include more than 30 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Making additional strides, forty nations around the globe have contributed their own scientists to participate in the expert group on forest fires.
European Commission Joint Research Centre. (2017, October 19). Danger to Air Quality from Forest Fires. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171019100805.htm