Climate change or arson: How wildfires are being weaponized in Europe
Updated 00:04, 07-Aug-2023
Matt Stuttard

The Mediterranean is in flames yet again – a story of human-made climate disaster that  now plays on repeat every summer, with the alarm bells getting louder and louder. But buried within the reports are lines about the possibility that arson might be the cause of some of the recent wildfires, however this information is being played down.

Arson is suspected to have led to some of the current and recent devastating fires on the Greek islands of Corfu and Rhodes, and 21 suspects have been arrested in the past fortnight, according to the Greek government. 


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In Italy, the president of the Calabria region claims arson is to blame for 80 percent of wildfires there. Roberto Occhiuto says several people have been caught after a fleet of monitoring drones was deployed across forests. 

Apex World News shared footage on the microblogging site X, showing one suspect apparently caught in the act. Arson is as old as humanity itself and there are specific psychological factors behind it. 


A precise and calculated act

Ed Nordskog, Arson profiler, is a leading expert on serial arsonists and has written several books profiling offenders. He has recently been in Canada helping police investigate the ongoing forest fires there. Nordskog says it is more common than one might think (including with wildfires) where arson is a precise and calculated act, motivated by revenge, or financial gain through insurance. But, he says, there are a range of other issues.

"Number one they're angry, two, frustrated, three, they want to make some money, and four, they have serious mental health issues," he explains. 

Meanwhile, there are some who continue to deny the human causes of climate change, and the resulting rise in extreme weather events across the world. Citing arson as a trigger for wildfires can add fuel to that viewpoint. But it is seen by most experts as a distraction from the bigger picture, with a danger of over amplifying its significance.  

"Climate change does not cause arson. Arson is a predatory crime controlled only by the whims of an arsonist," says Nordskog. "However, climate change does cause wildland fires to ignite more rapidly and more easily, and to spread much more quickly. In reality, in the wildlands, still only about 10 percent or so of fires are in fact caused by arson." 


'There will always be arsonists'

He adds that at both national and global levels, proper statistics on the number and types of arson attacks and the arsonists behind them are lacking, compared to other serial crimes. 

He says that governments, police and judicial systems do not treat the psychological and serial nature of arson as seriously as other crimes such as sex offenses. 

Nordskog says he personally sees no evidence that the possibility of starting a large wildfire is an added incentive to what he calls "thrill seeker" arsonists; nor that hot weather brings any significant rise in the number of arson attacks. 

"People set fires every single day of the year. They just get put out really quickly or they go out before anybody notices. It's during the hot dry months that the fires actually take off. And so the climate is a factor. It's not a factor of why people set fires, but it is a factor in why the fires keep going, or they get massive and monstrous," he says.

"These are serial arsonists, there's tens of thousands of them. There's always serial arsonists, there always will be."

Climate change or arson: How wildfires are being weaponized in Europe

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