Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report titled ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’ set the alarm bells ringing with projections of accelerated impacts of unmitigated climate change across the globe. So far, the consequences of current warming itself seem to have surpassed the projections of even the ‘worst case scenario’. Over the past couple of months alone, disastrous events like floods, forest fires, landslides and more—most of which were induced by the changing climate—have rattled different parts of the world.
Keeping this unfortunate trend alive, new wildfires are now burning across Siberia on a record scale, larger than all the other wildfires burning around the world combined! Wildfires are a common occurrence in coniferous forests of Russia, but the present fires have outdone the past in terms of size and intensity. Nearly 90% of the Taiga forests along the Yakutia region in Siberia have gotten burned down!
This week, the fires have spread across 43,000 square kilometres of land—an area as large as the Indian state of Haryana! And since the beginning of this year, around 1.31 lakh square kilometres of forests have burned down, equivalent to the size of Tamil Nadu, India’s tenth largest state.
“New fires have appeared in the north of Yakutia, in places where there were no fires last year and where it had not burned at all before,” Kolesov, senior air observation post-pilot, said.
The implications of this wildfire have been disastrous not just for the flora and fauna within these forests, but also for the life beyond them. Thick smoke from the wildfires has blanketed several Russian provinces. The smoke has even managed to travel an unparalleled distance of 3000km and reach the North Pole. Also, 166 metric tons of carbon dioxide has been emitted—equivalent to the emission from 360 lakh cars!
Climate change has been named the culprit for these fires and also the alarming rise in temperatures. However, many environmentalists have said that the Russian authorities’ negligence is also to blame. They have disregarded past forest fires because of a law allowing them to refrain from intervening if the expense of intervention exceeds the cost of the harm they cause or does not affect populated areas.
“These fires should have been put out at the very beginning but were ignored due to weak policies. Now it has grown into a climate catastrophe that can not be stopped by human means,” said a Greenpeace Russia wildland fire expert.
There is a possibility of these fires endangering nearby villages and a hydroelectric power plant located just 20 km away from one of those villages.
Currently, around 2000 individuals are working towards putting out the fires that continue to blaze in 216 forests of the Sakha-Yakutia region.
The magnitude of this issue has been downplayed for years. It remains to be seen if this calamity will be a wake-up call for government representatives across the globe to increase efforts to manage the climate change crisis.
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