By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Wildfires in Spain and Morocco produced more carbon emissions in June and July this year than in the same period since 2003, the EU’s Copernicus atmospheric monitoring service said.
Forest fires have swept parts of southern Europe and northern Africa, killing hundreds of people, forcing thousands to flee their homes, and spewing out health-damaging pollutants and greenhouse gases.
Fires in Spain produced 1.3 million tons of carbon emissions between June and July 17, the highest for any June-July period since the Copernicus data collection began in 2003.
In the year With more than 30 fires burning as of Tuesday, Spain has broken its previous record of 1.1 million tons of carbon emissions from June-July 2012.
“Emissions in Spain are higher than they have been in the last 20 years,” Copernicus senior scientist Mark Parrington told Reuters.
Morocco set a new record for June-July this year with 480,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from wildfires.
Copernicus counts all the carbon released by fire in its data, including the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.
Climate change is exacerbating hotter, drier conditions that make fires spread faster and burn longer — which means they spew out more planet-warming greenhouse gases and air pollutants that cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
“Depending on which way the wind is going, it can really reduce and affect air quality that could affect tens, hundreds of thousands of people,” Parrington said.
In the year Globally, wildfires will emit 1.76 billion tons of carbon by 2021, with intense and long fires burning in places like Siberia, the United States and the Mediterranean.
France is also facing a major outbreak of wildfires. During June-July this year, the country’s wildfires released 344,000 tons of carbon emissions, the highest since June-July 2003. Other countries, such as Portugal, have seen lower rates of forest fires in recent years.
(Reporting by Katie Abnett; Editing by John Chalmers and Bernadette Baum)