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Searching the flames: Trends in global and regional public interest in wildfires

Cristina Santin Nuno, Aristides Moustakas Orcid Logo, Stefan Doerr Orcid Logo

Environmental Science & Policy, Volume: 146, Pages: 151 - 161

Swansea University Authors: Cristina Santin Nuno, Stefan Doerr Orcid Logo

  • Accepted Manuscript under embargo until: 24th May 2025

Abstract

Interactions between humans and wildfires have increased in many regions over the last decades driven by climate and land-use changes. A shift towards more adaptive fire management and policies is urgently needed but remains difficult to achieve. Better understanding of public interest in wildfire c...

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Published in: Environmental Science & Policy
ISSN: 1462-9011 1873-6416
Published: Elsevier BV 2023
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa63531
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Abstract: Interactions between humans and wildfires have increased in many regions over the last decades driven by climate and land-use changes. A shift towards more adaptive fire management and policies is urgently needed but remains difficult to achieve. Better understanding of public interest in wildfire can facilitate this transition, as the public is a key driver for policy decisions. We used Google Trends to assess temporal patterns (2004–2020) in public interest on wildfires worldwide and in five case study countries (Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Portugal, USA). Public interest consistently shows a cyclic pattern with low background and short-lasting spikes during fire seasons and catastrophic events. Wildfires that receive the most interest worldwide are located in Western countries, especially the USA. There is usually high demand for news on wildfires when spikes in interest happen. Overall global interest in wildfire has risen twice: first for a short period in 2007–2008, concomitant to catastrophic wildfires in California, and again since 2017, probably triggered by a series of catastrophic fire events around the globe. Nevertheless, public interest in wildfire is low when compared with socioeconomically more costly earthquakes or hurricanes. The short and seasonal interest in wildfire may present an important obstacle to the implementation of wildfire mitigation policies that require year-round approaches. However, the fact that the public uses the internet to obtain basic knowledge about wildfire functioning and impacts, especially during the interest spikes, can facilitate targeting awareness campaigns. These could be not only about wildfires but also about broader related environmental issues.
Keywords: Google trends, Relative search interest, Forest fires, Bushfires, Natural hazards, Wildfire impacts, Social perceptions
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering
Funders: This work was supported by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (FIRElinks COST Action grant no. CA18135). C. S. received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement 663830 and the Spanish ‘Ramon y Cajal’ programme, Ref. N. RYC2018–025797-I. S.D. was supported by the H2020 grant FirEUrisk, Ref. 101003890.
Start Page: 151
End Page: 161