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This year has already been one of the worst for wildfires, and outlooks for remaining months don’t give much hope for improvement. Fires burning through forests and peatlands in Arctic Russia released more carbon dioxide in June and July than in any whole year since 2003. Now, the fire season is beginning in Australia, in which millions of hectares of vegetation burned in the devastating 2019-2020 fire season, as well as in Indonesia, where wildfires have in recent years caused severe haze and health crises impacting the Southeast Asia region as a whole. In the face of weakened resources due to COVID-19 and intensifying fires catalysts from climate change, how are leaders tackling fires’ devastating aftermaths and preparing for those inevitably to come? What’s in store for the rest of this year, and how will it lead into fire seasons in years to come?
In the first of a two-part GLF Live series on fires, experts from Siberia, Australia and Indonesia joined conversation to discuss what’s happening on the ground and in response frameworks in their critical regions. Anton Beneslavskiy of Greenpeace Russia, Daniel Murdiyarso of the Center for International Forestry Research based in Indonesia, and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick of the University of New South Wales compared and contrasted how fires take hold in their landscapes, gave insights from science and made informed predictions about the future.
Daniel Murdiyarso is a principal scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and a Professor at the Department of Geophysics and Meteorology, IPB University, Bogor, Indonesia. He was Indonesia’s deputy minister of environment for two years, during which he was also the national focal point of the UNFCCC and CBD. He is until today a member of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences and chairs its Basic Science Commission. Dr. Murdiyarso has served in a number of Nobel Prize winning IPCC as convening lead author of Assessment/Special Reports and Guidelines, including Wetland Supplement. His many research works focus on land-use change and biogeochemical cycles, carbon accounting, climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick is a climate scientist and Future Fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW Sydney. She completed her PhD 10 years ago, also at the Climate Change Research Centre, and has also worked for CSIRO in researching climate change over the Pacific. Sarah has authored over 80 scientific journal articles and book chapters, spanning research topics such as marine and atmospheric heatwaves, future climate projections, and observed changes in climate extremes. In 2016 Sarah was named as one of UNSW’s “20 rising stars who will change the world”, and she also has a passion for science communication, regularly commenting on all things climate change, heatwaves, Australian bushfires, and other types of climate extremes.
Anton Beneslavskiy joined the Greenpeace International Operations department as a trainer for firefighters and emergency responders in 2019. Prior, he served in Greenpeace Russia as a forest fire campaigner, was an incident commander for wildfires in the Russian Forest Institute, led projects on the impacts of climate and biodiversity on wildfires, and has trained volunteer firefighters in Russia, Indonesia, Germany and Cyprus. He studied law and practiced corporate law for more than a decade.