Science group: Wildfire costs will continue to grow due to climate change

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(Photo: MGN Online)

DENVER — The cost of fighting wildfires is rising and will continue to do so as a result of climate change extending the fire season, a nonprofit science group warned last week.

“The annual suppression cost has exceeded $1 billion in each year since 2000,” Rachel Cleetus, senior climate economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told USA Today.

The costs of fighting wildfires are rising dramatically, and could keep climbing in the face of climate change that’s contributing to longer fire seasons out West and the spread of housing developments near forests, the group said. But the actual damage costs — including lost tourism revenue and damage to public health and watersheds — can dwarf firefighting costs, Cleetus added.

Climate change is a dominant driver of the fires in the West, according to Jason Funk, a UCS climate scientist.

“Temperatures have risen in the West by 2 degrees since 1970, and there’s been a big change in length of wildfire season, which has risen from five months to seven months,” he said.

The report comes during the largest wildfire in Washington state history. A total of 26 fires are burning almost a million acres in the western U.S. Nationally, wildfires have burned less than half the 10-year average so far this summer.

The report noted that since 1985, fire suppression costs have increased nearly four times from $440 million (in 2012 dollars) to more than $1.7 billion in 2013.

The UCS is widely considered an impartial, non-political group, though it has taken heavy criticism from some  conservative politicians and others who don’t believe in the science of climate change.

Read more at USA Today




  • Keophus

    Yep, and next year (2015) every last bit of ice will be gone on the Arctic ocean.
    (Well publicized prediction from 2007.)
    Let’s see how that one works out.
    Also, wild fires will certainly go up in the future regardless of what happens with the climate. This is because we’ve worked so hard at suppressing them for so many years.

  • Robert Winn

    Seriously? The true cost lie in the equipment, man hours, pay increases etc. Of course a large wildfire cost more to fight now than the past and any fool would easily be able to say future fires will cost more… Between equipment cost (Trucks, Planes, etc.) Human cost, pay and bennies to fighters, etc. It has nothing to do with that evil climate change and everything to do with higher cost of everything.

  • dapandico

    Science of climate change? Why is that Al Gore presentations are closed and no questions allowed?

  • ColoradoCommish

    “The UCS is widely considered an impartial, non-political group…”
    Good One….. You guys could be writing for Saturday Night Live….

  • Bill Easter

    This article has it wrong. Because of forest fires we get global warming. Not the other way around. 1 1000 acre forest fire produces more carbon that the whole history of mankind.

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