The Changing Risk and Burden of Wildfire in the US

34 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2020

See all articles by Marshall Burke

Marshall Burke

University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Anne Driscoll

Stanford University

Jenny Xue

Stanford University

Sam Heft-Neal

Stanford University

Jennifer Burney

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Michael W. Wara

Stanford Law School

Date Written: June 2020

Abstract

Recent dramatic and deadly increases in global wildfire activity have increased attention on the causes of wildfires, their consequences, and how risk from fire might be mitigated. Here we bring together data on the changing risk and societal burden of wildfire in the US. We estimate that nearly 50 million homes are currently in the wildland-urban interface in the US, a number increasing by 1 million houses every 3 years. Using a statistical model that links satellite-based fire and smoke data to pollution monitoring stations, we estimate that wildfires have accounted for up to 25% of PM2.5 in recent years across the US, and up to half in some Western regions. We then show that ambient exposure to smoke-based PM2.5 does not follow traditional socioeconomic exposure gradients. Finally, using stylized scenarios, we show that fuels management interventions have large but uncertain impacts on health outcomes, and that future health impacts from climate-change-induced wildfire smoke could approach projected overall increases in temperature-related mortality from climate change. We draw lessons for research and policy.

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Suggested Citation

Burke, Marshall and Driscoll, Anne and Xue, Jenny and Heft-Neal, Sam and Burney, Jennifer and Wara, Michael W., The Changing Risk and Burden of Wildfire in the US (June 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27423, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3637724

Marshall Burke (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Anne Driscoll

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Jenny Xue

Stanford University

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Sam Heft-Neal

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Jennifer Burney

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Michael W. Wara

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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