As of last night, 250,000 people were evacuated from their homes just in the San Diego area. At least 13 separate wildfires in Southern California are blazing and at least 260,000 acres so far have been destroyed. While other news outlets will cover the fears, anxieties, tragedies and human elements of this story, I would like to emphasize the long-term impact of putting hundreds of thousands of acres of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.
One of the world’s best carbon sequestration methods that we have today are plants and trees. The atmosphere’s CO2 is absorbed by trees and used to produce oxygen. Burning hundreds of thousands of acres of trees in California releases tons of CO2 into the atmosphere immediately.
But, in the longer term, we will now have a lack of trees to absorb CO2 unless all of those trees are quickly replanted (unlikely). If the 17 trees per car theorem holds true and we use the very conservative figure of there being 170 trees per acre, then the California wildfires are releasing 10 cars per acre (emissions) into the atmosphere. At this point, this would be 2.6 million cars worth of emissions if all fires were to be put out immediately.