Two pieces today look into the impact of Southern California’s big wildfires on air pollution and CO2 levels (more on other aspects of wildfire coverage, next post), and the impacts of such fires in general.
At the San Diego Union-Tribune staffer Scott LaFee reports in the paper’s weekly Quest science section that climate change and other factors are increasing drought and fire, meaning more CO2. It may not be in the same ballpark as fossil fuel emissions, but it adds to a “spiraling and destructive feedback loop.” Also in the piece is info on the other pollutants in a wildfires smoke.
And at the AP, Seth Borenstein writes somewhat similarly, leaning largely on a study by Univ. of Colorado and Nat’l Ctr for Atmospheric Research scientists. They toted up US wildfire emissions. As they went to press with their own article for a journal, they rapidly estimated what last month’s SoCal blazes sent skyward: 8.7 million tons of CO2. That’s more than Vermont emits in a year. The US total: 322 million tons yearly. That’s about one twentieth what fossil fuel combustion contributes.
A good question for both writers to have raised pointedly is whether, in aggregate, vegetation in the US or worldwide is gaining or losing mass. Some is growing and soaking up CO2. American forest coverage is up, one reads, over the last century. Does anybody have a clear calculation whether there is a CO2 disequlibrium one way or the other, and how large?
Grist for the Mill: U. Colo-Boulder Press Release; (which does bring up the uncertainty of whether fires are outpacing new growth on the carbon ledger)