The fires are burning down forests that, when healthy, absorb heat-trapping gas and help stabilize the Earth’s temperature. That absorption is being lost. The effect is what one conservationist calls a “double whammy”: Wildfires add to the planet’s carbon emissions, while also destroying a source of long-term storage for carbon that’s slow to rebuild.
Are California’s forests now giving off more greenhouses gases than they take in? That remains in dispute. But climate scientists agree that the balance is heading in a bad direction.