The wildfires that ravaged the world this summer produced a record-breaking amount of emissions, according to data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service this week.
During the summer months, more than 1.76 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to over a quarter of what the US emits every year, was pumped into the atmosphere following wildfires.
Areas with the highest amount of emissions include Turkey, northeastern Siberia, and the western US. Numbers were also high in Albania, Greece, Italy and North Macedonia.
Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at Copernicus said, “as the year draws to a close, we have seen extensive regions experience intense and prolonged wildfire activity, some of which has been at a level not observed in the last couple of decades.”
2020 was already one of the hottest years on record and 2021 is expected to be one of the 10 hottest ever recorded. Rising temperatures and less rain have led to longer and more intense wildfire seasons around the world.
In Turkey, fires prompted mass evacuations after they destroyed thousands of hectares, killing tens of thousands of animals and at least eight people. In Albania, thousands of hectares of orchards, crops, and forest were destroyed and two people died.
“Drier and hotter regional conditions caused by global warming increase the risk of flammability and fire risk of vegetation and this has been reflected in the extremely large, fast-developing and persistent fires we have been monitoring,” Parrington said. “It is clear from 2021 that climate change is providing the ideal environments for wildfires.”
Defence Minister Niko Peleshi admitted that the state was not ready or prepared for this summers wildfire season that killed two people and devastated thousands of hectares of countryside, orchards, and crops.
During a law commission hearing in November, Peleshi spoke about the situation between July and September in the country. He admitted that “we are not where we need to be in terms of readiness, be it air, sea, or maintenance.”
He continued that Albania and his ministry has “poor levels of preparedness especially in the air force”, adding that “operators did not respond in time and some did not respond at all.”
The minister said they are trying to improve the situation to delegate it to more organized structures. He also hinted that more equipment would be purchased at more competitive prices and that the responsibility for purchasing could be handed over to NATO.
In terms of financing, Peleshi said the budget for civil emergencies was allocated EUR 20 million and that all staff would receive a 30% pay rise.
The government has been aware of its shortcomings in fighting wildfires for almost a decade. Multiple recommendations have been made to the government on how to prevent catastrophes during the summer months. These included practical, strategic, and legislative changes yet none were seemingly enacted.