GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

Europe is battling intense wildfires with countries like Spain, Greece and France struggling to stamp out fires and contain the damage. Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, and thousands of hectares of forest land burned to the ground amid a searing heatwave.

Why are wildfires worsening?

  1. Wildfires require right climatic conditions, burnable fuel and a spark. Rising temperatures suck moisture out of plants, creating an abundance of dry fuel.
  2. Drought and high heat can kill plants and dry out dead grass, and other material on the forest floor that fuel the fire once it starts sweeping through a patch.
  3. While dry vegetation is the burnable fuel that serves as kindling for fires, the spark is sometimes caused by lightning, at other times by accident or recklessness of the local population.
  4. A 2018 fire in California in the US, for instance, was started when a truck blew out its tire and its rim scraped the pavement, sending out sparks.
  5. Wildfire experts agree as they see clear climate change signatures in the dryness, high heat and early fire season.

How dangerous is inhaling wildfire smoke?

  1. While fire poses a direct risk to people’s life and property, wildfire smoke, and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns, can also affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
  2. For those already suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses, there is a risk of flare-ups.
  3. Wildfires across the world are becoming bigger and more frequent. Experts say that the approach has to change from firefighting to mitigation of factors that lead to extreme fire events.