U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced last Friday that according to data analyzed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the 2018 wildfire season in California is estimated to have released emissions equivalent to roughly 68 million tons of carbon dioxide.
This number equates to about 15 percent of all California emissions, and it is on par with the annual emissions produced by generating enough electricity to power the entire state for a year. The recent Camp and Woolsey fires have produced emissions equivalent to roughly 5.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.
“We know that wildfires can be deadly and cost billions of dollars, but this analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey also shows just how bad catastrophic fires are for the environment and for the public’s health,” said Secretary Zinke. “There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires. Proper management of our forests, to include small prescribed burns, mechanical thinning, and other techniques, will improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, while also helping curb the carbon emissions. The intensity and range of these fires indicate we can no longer ignore proper forest management. We can and must do a better job of protecting both the forests and the communities on the urban-wildland interface. Leaving forests unmanaged is no longer a safe option.”
These preliminary estimates were produced using provisional data from this year’s wildfire season. The USGS compared that to the emissions produced by California’s electricity (imported and produced in-state) during the entire year of 2016, which was roughly 76 million tons according to data provided by the California Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory.