Coming to grips with a climate paradox: Less air pollution spurs more wildfires

By Warren Cornwall | Anthropocene |

ANTHROPOCENE - It’s hard to fathom that there’s an upside to air pollution. But it’s becoming clear that, paradoxically, cleaning up tailpipes and smokestacks comes with a price for the planet.

As pollution controls cut emissions of aerosols such as sulfur dioxide, scientists are uncovering the myriad ways these tiny, sunlight-reflecting particles have been taking some of the sting out of global warming.

Cuts in aerosol pollution have been linked to increased hurricanes in the North Atlantic, a spate of devastating underwater heatwaves in the North Pacific, and nearly half of the global rise in heat driving global warming over the first two decades of the 2000s.

Now, add to the list the increasing flammability of the world’s largest forest biome. “Cleaning up the air, which is something we all want to do, will accelerate global warming and also impact wildfires,” warned Robert Allen, a climate scientist at the University of California Riverside.

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