Global Fires Cause Massive Suffering and Point to a Ghastly Future If Climate Change Continues



California Dixie Fire levels dozens of homes and multiple historic buildings, August 4, 2021. Photo: AP

From a reader:

This article is being written on August 6. The situation with the fires in the Northern Hemisphere continues to intensify.

Intense wildfires now raging in southern Europe, the western U.S., and Siberia are causing massive suffering and destruction. These fires are the latest manifestation of the climate crisis threatening humanity and the natural world.

Southern Europe

Since July 28, 180 fires have broken out in Turkey, killing eight. More than 100 fires were burning in Greece on August 5. Wildfires are also raging in Albania and Bulgaria. North Macedonia has declared a state of emergency.

A historic heat wave struck in July contributing to the size and intensity of the fires. Some facts:

  • The temperature in Athens last month reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit, a record for Greece and just 1 degree short of the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe.
  • In Italy, the number of large wildfires has tripled compared to the yearly average.
  • In Turkey, the fires are among the most intense ever recorded.

Most of the countries where the fires are burning are among the poorest in Europe and lack the resources that are available in richer countries to fight the fires.

Turkey, which spends billions purchasing military aircraft from the U.S. and Russia, does not have a single firefighting plane. Residents of a province in Turkey where many lost their homes and livestock told the Associated Press that the regime has done nothing to battle the fires and the people have been left to fill up buckets of water to save their homes.

Western U.S.

On August 6, the National Interagency Fire Center reported 107 active large fires burning throughout the western U.S., forcing thousands to evacuate their homes.

One of these fires, the Dixie fire in Northern California, has burned for more than three weeks and is only 35 percent contained. It is growing rapidly and is now the third largest fire since California started keeping records. On August 5, the fire destroyed the small town of Greenville, about 150 miles north of Sacramento. Eight people have been reported missing. It is feared that the fire could destroy more towns. “It looks like a bomb went off. There is nothing left,” a man whose father lost his home told the New York Times.

Fires of historic size and levels of destruction have become a feature of California in recent years. Of the 10 largest wildfires ever recorded in California, six were within the past 12 months. According to firefighters, fires which were recently considered once-in-a-lifetime blazes now happen regularly.

In Oregon, the Bootleg fire—which has been burning for more than one month—is so large that it is creating its own weather systems. This includes “fire tornados” and fierce windstorms that produce dry lightning. There were 3,100 lightning strikes this last week that ignited new clusters of wildfires.

Smoke from the fires has poisoned the air throughout the western U.S. On August 6, the smoke plume from the fires reached Salt Lake City, Utah, 650 miles away, where the air quality was the worst among the world’s major cities.


For the third year in a row, fires have burned huge areas in northern Siberia. Siberia has the lowest winter temperatures outside of Antarctica but, in recent years, summer temperatures have soared to over 100 degrees F. The average temperature is rising more than twice as fast in the Arctic as it is in the rest of the world.

During this winter, smoke rose from under the snow, evidence of what have been labeled “zombie fires” which smolder underground from the previous year. As the snow melted this year, new fires reignited earlier than usual.

Smoke from the fires now covers an area larger than half of the United States. “For a month already you can’t see anything through the smoke,” a 63-year-old man told the Guardian. “We have already sent the small children away.”

The Fires and Climate Change

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “While wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year. Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend. Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer and more intense dry seasons that increase moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to severe wildfire. The length of fire season is estimated to have increased by 75 days across the Sierras.”

Historic heat waves contributed to these 2021 fires. World Weather Attribution, which studies the links between climate change and extreme weather events, found that the recent heat wave in western North America “would be virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” They said, “Our results provide a strong warning: our rapidly warming climate is bringing us into uncharted territory that has significant consequences for health, well-being, and livelihoods.”

Climate change is not the only factor in the spread of wildfires. Other factors such as a lack of controlled burns to limit the accumulation of fuel, land use policies that put urban developments near wild areas, and tree death from the spread of parasites and heat also play a role. Many of these factors are related to capitalism and its unsustainable pursuit of profit at the expense of the natural world.


The climate crisis is a crisis of unprecedented and existential dimensions—threatening the ecosystems of the planet and life itself. To get into what underlies this crisis, and what must be done—go to the climate change resource page: Capitalism-Imperialism Is Destroying the Planet... Only Revolution Gives Humanity a Real Chance to Save It.




Northeastern Siberia, where 2.8 million acres burned, August 7, 2021. Photo: AP



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