In the short-term, wildfires pose a threat to destroy the lives and livelihoods of millions of people but, in the long-term, they might pose an even greater risk. After the loss of vegetation, the soil becomes hydrophobic (prevents water absorption), which ultimately contributes to flash floods and the introduction of heavy metals from ash and soil to infiltrate the waterways. Moreover, as the forests burn, vast amounts of smoke are released into the atmosphere. Such smokes can travel long distances, leading to numerous health issues, even in populations that were not at immediate risk of getting their infrastructures burned by the wildfires. In 2019, UNICEF reported 10 million Indonesian children were at risk from air pollution due to forest fires.
Looking at the near future, the outline intensifies. A new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that “fire weather” will probably increase by 2050 all over the globe. By “fire weather”, the experts mean more days where conditions are warm, dry, and windy enough to trigger and sustain wildfires.
Unfortunately, fires are only one of the concerns Humanity will have to face in the not-so-distant future. In an interview directly from the ISS with Business Insider, NASA’s McArthur also warns about other signs of climate change: “Big tropical storms — those are always coming, and potentially the flooding that comes after them […] We can see all of those effects from up here.”
“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai in a press release.
IPCC’s report is clear: Earth will not recover from global warming for thousands of years. But, on the bright side, we still have time to stave off the worst of the climate crisis. Every half-degree of heating that can be avoided makes a significant difference.
How do we manage to achieve the threshold that will prevent the worst-case scenario and assure our children will have a habitable Planet will be one of the subjects of discussion in the next Q-Day 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which will have a panel with experts that will share how we can use technology, namely data, to overcome one of Humanity’s most pressing challenges.