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On Forest Fires Climate Activist Aren’t Just Insensitive, They Are Also Wrong

A Chemist in Langley

My final word is for the activists who are seeking to take advantage of Albertans’ misfortunes to advance their political agendas. Not only have you shown yourselves to be callous and insensitive at a time where you could have been civilized and sensitive but you cannot even comfort yourself by hiding under the cloak of truth since, as I have shown above, the data does not support your case.

As anyone with any awareness of Canadian events knows, the City of Fort McMurray has undergone a complete evacuation because of an out-of-control wildfire. The news has kept me with one eye locked on my media feed as I have marveled at the resilience and dignity of the people of Alberta in this hour of need. As many have suggested, this is not a time to worry about the politics, but rather one to worry about and pray for the people displaced by this natural disaster. From a political perspective our leaders have shown admirable gravitas with Prime Minster Trudeau treading the cautious line dealing directly with the wildfire without using it for political advantage. At one point in the day, it looked like Green Party Leader Elizabeth May might have decided to attempt to make political hay from the fire, but she quickly issued a correction and has since shown the calm and restraint we expect from our leaders in times like these.

Unfortunately, while Canadian political leaders have performed well, many climate activists out there have tried to use this natural disaster to score points. As I noted  above, Ms. May’s first press conference sought to link the fire to climate change although she later prepared a press release saying:

“No credible climate scientist would make this claim, and neither do I make this claim. Rather, we must turn our minds in the coming days to the impact of increased extreme climate events, and what we can do collectively to respond to these events.” 

The claim in question being that the fire was directly related to climate change. That being said some far less socially aware people have decided that a human disaster is exactly the right time to push their political agendas. The most obvious case being a post at Slate written by Mr. Eric Holthaus titles: Wildfire Rips Through Canadian City, Forcing 80,000 to Flee. This Is Climate Change which I have seen re-tweeted more times than I can count.

Before I go any deeper into this discussion, I’d like to clear up a few points. As anyone familiar with Alberta geography knows, the City of Fort McMurray is located in the southern edge of the Canadian boreal forest. As any forester will tell you the boreal forests  are hard-wired for fire. As Natural Resources Canada puts it forest fire:

is as crucial to forest renewal as the sun and rain. Forest fires release valuable nutrients stored in the litter on the forest floor. They open the forest canopy to sunlight, which stimulates new growth. They allow some tree species, like lodgepole and jack pine, to reproduce, opening their cones and freeing their seeds. 

Forest fires are simply a way of life in the boreal forests and interface fires (fires that jump from wild lands into neighbouring communities) are a particular concern for any town that has been carved out of the boreal forest.

As for climate change, the science on that topic appears to be equally clear. The climate change models tend to agree that climate change will likely result in increasing severity and intensity of future forest fire regimes. The problem lies when activists, not satisfied with what the models project; decide instead to over-egg the sauce in order to score petty political points.

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