UI: Wildfire’s Contribution to Atmospheric Carbon Overestimated

Wildfires spew smoke and harm overall air quality, but they contribute a lot less carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than many people assume, and that many scientific models predict, according to a recent University of Idaho study.  Many regional estimates of wildfire carbon emissions are 59% to 83% percent higher than emissions based on field observations.


The inaccuracies don’t end there.


U of I doctoral student Jeff Stenzel said one of the more common statements that conflicts with their research is that these massive wildfires burn forests to the ground.


“And we have these catastrophic fires where we’re losing all of the carbon, all of the biomass, and where it’s just a complete loss.  And that’s very far from the truth and there are implications from that.”


Stenzel said fires are part of the forests life cycle, and a lack to burning over the years has led to an ample amount of fuel.  He said when looking at their research, he wants everyone, from scientists to laypeople, to have an open and honest discussion about fires, and how to address the issue into the future.


“Fire is dramatic, fire can be catastrophic, but let’s allow for a more rational discussion for what fire is doing to our forest landscapes, how it’s impacting our forests which have an excellent capacity to keep carbon out of the atmosphere and help us to mitigate climate change.  You know we don’t want to have the pendulum swing too far in one direction and actually acerbate climate change and emissions.”





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