EGU24-10384, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Oral | Wednesday, 17 Apr, 10:05–10:15 (CEST)
Room 1.14

Fuelling the fires - An exploration of the drivers and the scope for management of European wildfire risk under the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways 

Eva Preinfalk1,2 and John Handmer1,3
Eva Preinfalk and John Handmer
  • 1International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria
  • 2Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
  • 3Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

As socio-natural hazards, future extreme wildfires across Europe are exacerbated by two main drivers: climate change and socioeconomic dynamics. While modelling studies account for changes in fire danger and area burned under different climate scenarios, they largely disregard the impacts of land use change, or the interaction with adaptation through changes in vegetation management. This creates uncertainties regarding the role of anthropogenic processes and the reliability of projections under various policy scenarios. Next to the interaction with wildfire hazard, socioeconomic processes are shaping all dimensions of wildfire risk. Building on the IPCC notion that risk arises at the intersection of hazard, exposure and vulnerability, we screen the relevant empirical literature to identify key socioeconomic drivers of wildfire risk in a European context and bring this together with the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP) perspectives on plausible socioeconomic futures. The resulting wildfire risk scenario space serves two main purposes: (i) providing a qualitative navigator for incorporating socioeconomic uncertainty in model-based wildfire risk assessments and (ii) establishing boundary conditions for evaluating the feasibility of management strategies. Applying the SSP framework for envisioning plausible development trajectories, we systematically investigate the role of socioeconomic dynamics in determining future wildfire risk. Sustainable land use practices and profitable agricultural value chains reduce hazard (e.g. SSP1), while factors like poor environmental regulation (e.g. SSP5) and increasing pressure on land abandonment as competitive value chains disappear (e.g. SSP4), increase this dimension of wildfire risk. Exposure remains high across scenarios for different reasons. Ineffective land use planning contributes to the expansion of human settlements in areas dominated by unmanaged flammable vegetation (e.g. SSP3, SSP5), with a further escalation of livelihood exposure on poorly managed agricultural land (e.g. SSP4). Vulnerability becomes a distinctive driver of wildfire risk in scenarios with low rates of economic development and poor investment in human capital (e.g. SSP3, SSP4). While increased socioeconomic welfare may enhance coping capacities in the context of wildfires (e.g. SSP1, SSP5), the prioritization of business-related objectives in institutional risk management (e.g. SSP5) poses a risk of neglecting other critical aspects. As wildfires transition from a climate hazard into a potential disaster at the intersection with exposure and differential vulnerabilities, we emphasize the importance of addressing all three dimensions of risk. By expanding the view of future wildfire risk, we show that challenges to wildfire risk management differ significantly between scenarios. Social, economic and socioecological challenges may lead to paradoxical situations in managing wildfire risk. In scenarios, where vulnerability reduction has maximum leverage in reducing risk, socioeconomic challenges hinder the feasibility of implementing the measures necessary to achieve it. Similar dilemmas may arise in the context of hazard and exposure. By considering multiple plausible futures, this work stresses the importance of considering socioeconomic dynamics in shaping wildfire risk and keeping the design of risk management strategies open and flexible to adapt to changing circumstances.  


How to cite: Preinfalk, E. and Handmer, J.: Fuelling the fires - An exploration of the drivers and the scope for management of European wildfire risk under the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways , EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-10384,, 2024.