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49% Want Urgent Climate Action as Canadian Wildfire Impacts Mount

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  • Aug 1, 2021

49% Want Urgent Climate Action as Canadian Wildfire Impacts Mount

NPS Climate Change Response/Flickrs

Half of Canadians say the recent wave of heat, drought, and wildfires sweeping the country has given them a heightened sense of urgency about the climate crisis, according to an Ipsos poll released Wednesday by Global News.

In the online poll, conducted July 19-20, 49% “say the recent extreme weather events this summer have made them feel more strongly about the urgency to fight climate change,” Global reports. The research was carried out “as hundreds of forest fires have ravaged homes and forced mass evacuations across the country.”

Global says 263 uncontrolled fires were burning across the country as of July 21, and 4,579 wildfires had consumed 2.15 million hectares—both figures above the 10-year average.

“People are very aware of climate change,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Global Public Affairs at Ipsos. But younger people are more likely to see the need to do something about it.

For that age group, “climate change has become one of those existential issues of our age—and there’s a unanimity among younger people as to the importance of the issue and the need to do something about it,” he said. “The next challenge on the climate change issue will be moving from simple ways of raising awareness to actually showing people how they can make a difference.”

Yesterday’s National Fire Situation Report, published by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, had the country as a whole at National Preparedness Level 5, the highest possible. The report placed British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario at Level 5 on the scale and Saskatchewan at Level 4.

The Ipsos poll landed just a couple of days before a team of scientists from B.C., the United States, and Spain urged Western Canada to address the threats posed by highly destructive wildfires or face deadly consequences.

The scientists, including former wildland firefighter Mathieu Bourbonnais, now an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, predict devastating wildfires such as those currently burning in B.C. and elsewhere in the country will be commonplace by 2050, Wildfire Today reports, in a post originally published by The Canadian Press.

The paper predicts billions of dollars in suppression and indirect fire costs as well as hundreds or thousands of premature deaths due to exposure to wildfire smoke if climate change and fire causes are not resolved.

The warning comes as statistics from the B.C. government show 1,251 wildfires have charred more than 4,500 square kilometres of bush since the start of the fire season on April 1, CP writes. Three dozen of those blazes are considered extremely threatening or highly visible, including a 395-square-kilometre fire southwest of 100 Mile House that remains out of control and prompted an evacuation alert for another 161 properties on Wednesday.

Environment Canada has issued heat warnings or special weather statements for inland sections of the north and central coasts and much of southern B.C., and the B.C. Wildfire Service warns the combination of high temperatures and low relative humidity will make wildfires even more intense.

In a statement, Bourbonnais said a new long-term plan is needed because it’s simplistic and insufficient to blame the wildfire crisis on the forest sector or wildland fire management agencies.

“Wildfires affect so many facets of our society and environment including health, the economy, biodiversity, ecosystem function, and more,” he said. “Wildland fire management must engage additional proponents, including Indigenous peoples, industry, and communities, to help people learn to live with the realities of landscapes and ecological systems that include wildfires but, over time, work to reduce their more catastrophic effects.”

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 5, 2021

Highlights the human nature of 'it's not real until it happens to me' and hopefully we don't need to wait for too many major events to impact people tied to climate for it to become no longer a debate about investing in climate mitigation and resilience 

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