During the years 2015 – 2016, the world lost enough Trees, mostly from fires, to cover the entire surface of Spain, according to The Guardian. That amounts to 493,716 square kilometers. The data comes from Global Forest Watch. While local wildfires may not seem to be a spectacular occurrence, when considered in the broader context of millions of trees burning down each year, their significance becomes clear.

Fires in the most important forests on the planet

While the world as a whole lost many millions of trees over the last several years, the island of New Guinea saw the most spectacular destruction.

New Guinea is regarded as the third largest remaining block of forest on Earth. The largest two are the Amazon and Congo rainforests, both of which have also been victim to environmental devastation in recent years. Deforestation rose by seventy-percent on the island nation in 2015. This epic loss of vegetation contributes to the loss of thousands of wildlife species unique to the island, yet another factor driving the Earth’s sixth mass-extinction event. Indigenous peoples have relied upon the now vanishing forest and its wildlife for many thousands of years.

The Guardian describes the year of 2016 as “a world aflame”. This is alarming considering that 2017 has seen even more expansive fires than 2016 did.

Global Forest Watch experts claim the considerable rise in tree loss seen in 2016 was fueled by fire more than anything else. The natural life cycle of temperate forests involves fire. Trees burn and then sprout anew. Pinecones, for example, expel their seeds when reaching a high enough temperature, laying the groundwork for the next generation.

But in tropical forests, fires are not natural. They’re often caused by human activity. And they can create cross-border crises. In 2015, Indonesian infernos created a poisonous haze that spread to neighboring Southeast Asian countries. It may have resulted in 100,000 premature deaths from respiratory issues while also costing $35 billion in damage.

Fires around the world take enormous human and financial toll

CNBC reports that natural and man-made disasters created an estimated $306 billion in losses in 2017 alone. This represents a sixty-three percent increase from the previous year. Insured losses more than doubled over the same period. 2017 was the third-most expensive year ever for insured losses due to devastating fires and monstrous hurricanes.

It’s not difficult to surmise that when forests become hotter and drier, they burn easily, more frequently, and with more intensity. 2016 was both a disastrous year in terms of fires and also the hottest year on record (while 2015 was the hottest year on record at that time, and 2014 before that).

Combine droughts with heat, and you get more fire.

As evidence of all of this, look at the following list of videos from just the last few years.

Fires in Southern Europe in August 2016:

Fires in Chile in January 2017:

Fires in Italy in October 2017:

Fires in Korea in May 2017:

Fires in Russia in May 2016:

This is only a short list. It does not include the highly publicized fires that have destroyed over a million acres of trees in the Western US this year alone or the millions of acres in Siberia and Canada that have also burned. Every corner of the globe has been experiencing similar catastrophe for years. It is projected to get much worse.

In short, this is not a difficult equation to calculate. No trees, no people. The world is literally on fire. And everyone thinks it’s just their neck of the woods that is burning. It’s not.