Vicious circle of fires, warming

Authorities must intensify their efforts to curb climate change as the heat waves and drier conditions created by the phenomenon in Greece and other Mediterranean countries are leading to larger and more uncontrollable forest fires, a spokesperson for conservation group Greenpeace told Kathimerini yesterday. «Apart from all the other repercussions of climate change, we have the larger and fiercer blazes which further fuel global warming,» said Natalia Tsigaridou, referring to the findings of a report compiled by Greenpeace’s office in Spain, which has been ravaged by devastating forest fires this summer. According to Miguel Soto, Greenpeace Spain’s forests campaigner, «forest fires are becoming more intense and out of control in Spain and across Southern Europe.» Soto said the problem was being compounded by «changes in land use, the abandonment of rural areas and the lack of effective management of forestland.» The report draws parallels between the fatal forest fires that scorched the Peloponnese and Evia in the summer of 2007, killing more than 70 people, and the blazes that ravaged the Spanish region of Galicia in August 2006. «After two weeks of dry winds and temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius… a wave of around 3,000 fires razed around 190,000 hectares of land,» the report notes. Greenpeace and other conservation groups have emphasized the importance of curbing fuel emissions from cars and industry. But scientists are now also calling for restraints on emissions from passenger and cargo ships. According to recent research carried out by experts at the National Technical University of Athens in cooperation with the Prefecture of Piraeus, air pollution levels at the country’s ports – particularly at Piraeus – are much higher than those in other areas. «All evidence shows that the pollution emitted by ships is massive,» Piraeus Prefect Yiannis Michas told Kathimerini. One of the problems Michas highlighted was that ships are not using a new type of cleaner fuel with lower sulfur content in accordance with international regulations.