The United Nations has assessed for the first time the global risk of catastrophic wildfires, finding that as climate change accelerates more of the world will burn — with disastrous consequences for human health, the economy and biodiversity.

"The heating of the planet is turning landscapes into tinderboxes, while more extreme weather means stronger, hotter, drier winds to fan the flames,” wrote the authors of the report, released Wednesday by the U.N. Environment Program and the nonprofit GRID-Arendal. "Too often, our response is tardy, costly, and after the fact, with many countries suffering from a chronic lack of investment in planning and prevention.

"This must change,” the report added. "Wildfires need to be placed in the same category of global humanitarian response as major earthquakes and floods.”