Wildfires getting worse globally, governments unprepared, UN reports

FILE -Firefighters work at the scene of forest fire near Kyuyorelyakh village at Gorny Ulus area, west of Yakutsk, in Russia Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. A warming planet and land use changes mean more wildfires will scorch large parts of the globe in coming decades. That's according to a UN report released Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 that says many governments are ill-prepared to address the problem. (AP Photo/Ivan Nikiforov, File)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A warming planet and changes to land use patterns mean more wildfires will scorch large parts of the globe in coming decades, causing spikes in unhealthy smoke pollution and other problems that governments are ill prepared to confront, according to a U.N. report released Wednesday.

The Western U.S., northern Siberia, central India, and eastern Australia already are seeing more blazes, and the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires globally could increase by a third by 2050 and more than 50% by the turn of the century, according to the report from the United Nations Environment Program.

Areas once considered safe from major fires won't be immune, including the Arctic, which the report said was "very likely to experience a significant increase in burning."

Tropical forests in Indonesia and the southern Amazon of South America also are likely to see increased wildfires, the report concluded.

"Uncontrollable