Fresh forest regrowth might offset climate hit from Australia fires

21 April 2020

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AUSTRALIA – SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) – The vast swathes of smoke that blanketed Australia during its most devastating bush fire season on record are expected to have a negligible long-term impact on the climate.

Despite the razing of an area the size of England, and the spewing out of more than one-and-a-half times the nation’s annual carbon-dioxide emissions, forest regrowth over the next decade will offset much of the impact from the blazes, Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy & Resources said on Tuesday (April 21) in a report. However, global climate change could affect the recovery process and its impact would be monitored closely.

The eucalyptus forests of Australia’s southeast are well-adapted to fire and tend to recover quickly, usually within 10 to 15 years of the event, according to the report, which didn’t look at the impact on the area’s unique fauna. At least 1 billion animals were killed during the abnormally long bush fire season, which lasted from September to early March.

“Bush fires release significant amounts of carbon dioxide, but generally recover over time, generating a significant carbon sink in the years following the fire,” the report said, and “the future recovery of the forest is expected to be complete.”

The findings were based partly on a case study of bush fires in the Canberra region in 2003, which showed that 95 per cent of the affected area had recovered by 2017.

Australia is targeting a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 26 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels, but has seen its pollution levels flat-line in recent years as several major gas export projects started operation.

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