The alarm bells are ringing with carbon emissions at an all-time high, thanks to Canada’s historic forest fires, which have already surpassed the national annual record.
The whole country is ablaze, and Canada has never before experienced fires of this scale at the same time. Canada has been encircled by fires since early May, with an unprecedented fire season “leading to a total of about 160 megatons of carbon emissions, which are now the highest estimated total annual emissions for Canada”, according to the Copernicus database (CAMS), set up in 2003. The previous record “was around 140 megatons”, over the whole of 2014, the observatory said.
The figures are mind-boggling: Canadian fires in 2023 currently represent more than 10% of global carbon emissions linked to forest fires in 2022 (1,455 megatons). In terms of their contribution to global warming, these 160 megatons of carbon represent the equivalent of around 590 million tonnes of CO2 or 88% of Canada’s annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2021.
The fires in Canada demonstrate climatologists’ fears of an increase in fires as ambient temperatures rise. The increase in fires is turning these natural carbon sinks, which capture and store carbon dioxide, into sources of greenhouse gases, fuelling a vicious circle. Fires are now destroying twice as much forest cover worldwide as at the beginning of the century.