Naked Science Forum

Life Sciences => The Environment => Topic started by: MeganM on 23/01/2020 09:36:00

Title: How much CO2 is being released by Australia's bush fires?
Post by: MeganM on 23/01/2020 09:36:00
Paul wants to know:

How much carbon is being released by Australia's bush fires? Is this what runaway global warming could look like?

Any thoughts?
Title: Re: How much CO2 is being released by Australia's bush fires?
Post by: chiralSPO on 23/01/2020 18:07:50
I don't know the exact value... but it is quite a bit.

Here is a link (that seems reasonable to me and includes citations) that addresses carbon dioxide release from the recent fires in california: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23082018/extreme-wildfires-climate-change-global-warming-air-pollution-fire-management-black-carbon-co2

The story in Australia is basically the same, but much larger--about sixfold bigger than all of the 2018 California fires combined (so far). https://time.com/5758186/australia-bushfire-size/

In addition to considering how much carbon dioxide was released in the fires themselves, we also must consider if the loss of ecosystems will also lead to an increase or decrease in carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere (any tree that burned can no longer grab carbon dioxide from the atmosphere--on the other hand, it may spur new growth in the next few years that more than compensate for what was lost--an unlikely but theoretically possible outcome)

This may look somewhat like runaway, but I don't know how reinforcing the fires are. I am much more concerned about thawing permafrost releasing methane (and later down the road if we can't get our acts together, possibly increased releases of methane from marine clathrates)
Title: Re: How much CO2 is being released by Australia's bush fires?
Post by: Bored chemist on 23/01/2020 19:27:57
Estimates vary, but it looks like about a billion tonnes.
Mankind produces about 36 billion tonnes per year.
So the fires are bad, but not nearly as bad as we humans are.