At the top of Google News searches today for “climate change” is a paper published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) claiming climate change harms public health by causing more wildfires. Accepting the NEJM connection between wildfires and public health at face value, the article’s conclusions about climate change nevertheless fail. Globally, wildfires are becoming less frequent and severe as the Earth modestly warms, and the New England Journal of Medicine should stick to medical science rather than climate advocacy.
The NEJM paper, titled “Wildfires, Global Climate Change, and Human Health,” claims recent years have produced “fires of unprecedented scale and duration — including wildfires in Australia in 2019 to 2020, the Amazon rainforest in Brazil in 2019 and 2020, the western United States in 2018 and 2020, and British Columbia, Canada, in 2017 and 2018.”
It is true that sensational media coverage of the above-mentioned wildfires may have reached “unprecedented scale and duration,” but unprecedented media coverage does not prove – or even equal evidence of – unprecedented wildfires. Fortunately, NASA satellites provide precise global data on wildfires. The objective, NASA-verified truth is wildfires are becoming less frequent and severe as the Earth modestly warms.
NASA satellites have been measuring global wildfires since 2003. A recently published NASA article shows satellites have measured a 25-percent decline in land burned by wildfires during that span. The likely reason is a general increase in global precipitation, with no global increase in drought, as the Earth modestly warms.
So, let’s assume for the sake of argument that wildfires harm human health. As the Earth warms and global precipitation increases, wildfires are becoming less frequent and severe. If there is any connection between climate change, wildfires, and human health, the connection is clearly one that benefits human health.