UN warns that number of extreme wildfires will increase 30% by 2050, 50% by end of century

Posted at 7:03 AM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 11:06:36-05

The Western U.S. has seen a disturbing increase in wildfires in recent years — blazes that have displaced thousands of people and had a devastating impact on local ecosystems.

Now, a U.N. climate report warns that those wildfires will become "more frequent and intense" in the decades ahead.

The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) report, "Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires," says that there will be a 14% increase in "extreme fires" worldwide by the end of the decade.

The report also says that figure will increase to 30% by 2050 and 50% by the end of the century.

Not only does the report warn of an increase in extreme fires, but it also says the regions affected by such blazes will expand in the years to come. Even the Arctic will see an elevated risk for wildfires in the years to come.

The report says the increase in wildfires has been exacerbated by man-made climate change, which is increasing drought and raising temperatures. That leads to hotter, drier and longer fire seasons.

At the same time, the report says more extreme fires will only increase the devastating effects of climate change by "ravaging sensitive and carbon-rich ecosystems like peatlands and rainforests."

The U.N. report lays out some potential solutions for combating extreme fires moving forward. They proposed a new budget where two-thirds of funding would go to "planning, prevention, preparedness, and recovery," which includes a "combination of data and science-based monitoring systems with indigenous knowledge and for a stronger regional and international cooperation."

"Current government responses to wildfires are often putting money in the wrong place. Those emergency service workers and firefighters on the frontlines who are risking their lives to fight forest wildfires need to be supported," Inger Andersen, the executive director of the UNEP, said in a statement. "We have to minimize the risk of extreme wildfires by being better prepared: invest more in fire risk reduction, work with local communities, and strengthen global commitment to fight climate change."


Put together your emergency supply kit long before a wildfire or other disaster occurs and keep it easily accessible so you can take it with you when you have to evacuate.

Emergency Supply Kit Checklist:

  • Face masks or coverings
  • Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person
  • Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
  • Prescriptions or special medications
  • Change of clothing
  • Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Sanitation supplies
  • Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
  • Don’t forget pet food and water!

Items to take if time allows:

  • Easily carried valuables
  • Family photos and other irreplaceable items
  • Personal computer information on hard drives and disks
  • Chargers for cell phones, laptops, etc.

Always keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed and handy in case of a sudden evacuation at night.