Climate Change Is Fueling Wildfires Across South America

Human-caused climate change has led to extreme weather events across South America, including wildfires in Chile’s coastal Valparaíso region and the surrounding areas. In early February, Chile’s coastal region and Santiago’s capital, Santiago, experienced a wave of wildfires that quickly spread, burning tens of thousands of homes and leaving more than 133 people dead. The popular coastal tourist destination of Viña del Mar was among the hardest hit areas.

The fires come as Chile has experienced historically high temperatures, passing 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This fire season is one of the deadliest on record. At the beginning of 2023, 400,000 hectares (nearly 990,000 acres) burned across the country. Fernando Iglesias, a conservation scientist and executive director of the Andean Conservancy, tells The Progressive that the damage from wildfires in Chile has grown worse in recent years. El Niño, which brings higher temperatures and drier conditions, has partly contributed to the conditions this year.

Chile is not alone in this crisis, as massive wildfires have also ripped through Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. Colombia has had one of the worst fire seasons in its history, with 42,000 acres of forests affected. In January 2024, wildfires encroached on Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, leading to the closure of the airport and a state of emergency. Argentina has struggled to contain massive wildfires that have spread through Patagonia, with over 1,480 acres burned in a fast-moving wildfire in Los Alerces National Park alone.

These events are a wake-up call for international actors to implement measures to stop the fires and raise awareness of the importance of combating climate change. Communities in Chile are still trying to adapt themselves and create strategies of resilience to protect their homes.

Read More @ Progressive

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