Climate change may add billions to wildfire costs, study says

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A study by several major environmental groups estimated that climate change could mean that future wildfires will be much larger and add billions of dollars to already costly losses.

The study released Tuesday, titled “Flammable Planet: Wildfires and the Social Cost of Carbon,” is a joint project of the Environmental Defense Fund, the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Los Angeles Times reported.

U.S. wildfires cost as much as $125 billion annually, but climate change could add as much as $60 billion to the bill by 2050, the study said. The projected cost increase is attributed to an expanding area in which wildfires burn — estimated to be 50% to 100% larger by 2050. California “could experience a 36% to 74% increase in area burned by 2085 under a high emissions path,” the study said.

“Climate change is here now, and its toll on our health and economy is rising every day,” said Laurie Johnson, chief economist at NRDC.

“The current scientific consensus is that wildfire risk will increase in many regions of the world as climate change leads to warmer temperatures, more frequent droughts, and changing precipitation patterns,” the study said. “Fires are expected to become more frequent and intense, and fire seasons are projected to last longer.”