Canadian conservationists push emission limits for wildfire reduction

Groundbreaking research last year found around 37 percent of burned land across North America can be traced directly back to carbon emissions from 88 major fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers. Now, environmentalists in Canada are using the research to push for change.

The study, published last May in the journal Environmental Research Letters, used climate, burned area, and global energy balance models to determine what contribution carbon emissions had on increases in vapor pressure deficit (VPD), which partially caused a rise in burned forest area in the United States and Canada. The research concluded, along with the fossil fuel link, that carbon producer emissions contributed to 48 percent of long-term VPD rise between 1901 and 2021.

canada smoke reaches Europe
Smoke from fires in Canada traversed the Atlantic Ocean and drifted over European countries including Portugal and Spain. ~ NASA image of the day for June 27, 2023

“As loss and damage from these hazards mounts, this research can inform public and legal dialogues regarding the responsibility carbon producers bear for addressing past, present, and future climate risks associated with fires and drought in the western U.S. and southwestern Canada,”  researchers said. Nearly a year later, Climate Action Network Canada advocates are using that research to advocate a new push for nationwide carbon emission limits.

June 26, 2023 Canada smoke
June 26, 2023 Canada smoke

“To cap wildfires and other climate impacts, the government must cap oil and gas emissions,” said Climate Action Network Executive Director Caroline Brouillette. “Other sectors and everyday Canadians are reducing their emissions, while for decades the oil and gas sector has increased its pollution and pushed back against every form of accountability. Further delay benefits only oil and gas executives’ pocketbooks and climate-denying politicians.”

A survey of nearly 2,000 Canadians found that nearly two-thirds of residents support a greenhouse gas emissions cap for the oil and gas industry. The survey also found that support for an emissions cap is the highest among Canadians aged 60 or older at 71 percent and only 18 percent of Canadians said the industries shouldn’t be required to limit emissions.

Such a cap would prevent 4,800 premature Canadian deaths and yield $45 billion in economic benefits, according to research projections from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. The results were attributed to projected reductions in air pollution — specifically in nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter, and annual ozone — if oil and gas industry emissions are capped at 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2023, which is Canada’s national climate target.

~ Full statement from Climate Action Network Canada.



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9 thoughts on “Canadian conservationists push emission limits for wildfire reduction”

  1. is it possibls there’s a lot of nuance in the climate? the relationship of us, our short time here and the planet?
    potentially both points are valid?

    there’s climate change and there’s climate hysteria.

  2. It’s OK to be skeptical of science, that’s how the self-correcting scientific process works. But Bob mentions the dust bowl and it’s very well documented how human factors played a major role in the “dust” part of the that disaster (destructive agricultural practices coupled with drought). Burning of fossil fuels will be far longer lasting and more impacting than anything we’ve seen to date.

    1. There is no doubt the Dust Bowl was a separate instance in climate history than wildfires, but how separate? This cycle occurred during a period of droughts and higher temperatures which seems to be a repeating cycle in North America (and elsewhere). Unlike wildfires the environment was impacted by massive dust storms instead of fire ignition. There were possibly fire incidents associated with the Dust Bowl, but records were really not kept and those that exist may not be very accurate. The point I was trying to make was that we have moved through cycles that are representative of climate change, climate cycles, climate moderation, whatever you want to call it, but we never overlay periods of fire activity with cycles in weather and total climate change. Let’s face it we need to combine a vast series of evidence, be it fire, climate, human migration and habitation combined with management philosophy, fire and flood history to understand where we have been to design where we will go. Some fire regimes are as low as 15 years while some are many hundreds of years apart, but we introduce human habitation into the equation and now have a disaster where fire was always occurring at magnitude but humans do not live long enough to report this if not written.

      The Peshtigo Fire was truly the first WUI for in North America of note, unfortunately 2 factors prevent us from having an accurate picture of that event, first the Peshtigo Fire happened the same day as the great Chicago Fire where reporters survived and the city survived to tell the tale. In Peshtigo the Fire burned 40 miles long, 10 miles wide and consumed 16 towns and villages killing at least 2,500 people (many believing this to be a low count). Peshtigo happened during a drought period with high temperatures and high winds (similarities of Red Flag Conditions) which seem to mimick today’s elevated fire behavior, we have added more population to the complexity equation. I think all would agree we could better understand the historical occurrences if better records existed. Peshtigo has many questions that cannot be answered, it is known the Northern Tier experienced a lot of lightning, the region was in a drought situation, logging with steam power continued and there were cooking and camp fires still being used. Remember Fire was not a concern, USFS, BLM and most state land management agencies did not exist allowing for a private forest operation to control most dynamics, so anyone can take a guess on the ignition source and be correct. Could some of these acts be considered arson, by todays standards yes. In Colorado Class IV Arson occurs when a fire escapes a persons private property and damages another’s property, while the intent was not criminal the actions are charged.

      Science must be in the forefront of what is happening in our climate and environment, but climate (including fire) history through forensics must be walking hand in hand with research science to get us to the point we need to be. We cannot ignore the history, and through forensics it can be used to quantify and verify theories and likely provide corroborating evidence of change.

      I escaped California in 1974, I remember the scientists told us the Central Valley would be an ocean by 1994, then it became 2000, now I see signs that 2030 is the new coast configuration year. Glad I left when I did!

  3. In the old days (prior to 1990) theories were developed, hypothesis established, testing of hypothesis were tested then verified, today it appears that a collective group of people claim to be experts, gather together and develop a recommendation based on beliefs and possibly emotions rather than science.

    Not long ago I watched a presentation about climate change that provided a researcher from Los Alamos labs, he was superheating a stand of pines contained in a building and withholding normal annual precipitation from the forest. Should not normal levels of moisture be included in the forest fuel dynamics? I would think he altered the dynamics to fit his personal science. I stopped watching when he stated “Through our tests we know the environment is increasing 3 degrees each year” through a controlled environment?

    Science does not seem to consider the cycles, as a nation the explosive fire behavior in Peshtigo, WI in the 1880’s was not arson, it was draught, wind inputs and an ignition source. The same applies through history, the Dust Bowl, was this not created by a climate CYCLE that repeats itself? Tillamook Fires in OR in the 1930’s and the series of fires in CA starting with the Bel Aire fire in 61 into the 1970’s.

    I think that a lot of people are in a hurry to get published they do not take time to look at fire history. As a matter of fact we look at very little history anymore in the US!

    1. Which part of this, Bob, is based on beliefs and emotions?

      “Community-level impacts have been profound. Wildfires in California between 2017 and 2022 killed 194 people (CalFire 2022). The state’s 2018 fire season alone resulted in the destruction of more than 22 000 structures (CalFire 2018) and damages exceeding $140 billion (Wang et al 2021). Fire suppression costs across the United States exceeded $3 billion that same year (National Interagency Fire Center 2022). In addition to direct threats to lives and property, wildfires can reduce air quality and produce particulate matter that affects human and public health in many ways (Haikerwal et al 2016, Chen et al 2021, Heft-Neal et al 2022). Low-income families disproportionately experience these risks (Burke et al 2022).”

    2. @ Bob:
      “the Dust Bowl, was this not created by a climate CYCLE that repeats itself?”

      Nope, Bob, it was not. The “Dust Bowl” was not the weather or the climate occurring at the time, it was events — dust storms of the size and severity of that time are not a normal cyclic climate characteristic. Over a billion tons of topsoil would not have been lost without the ag practices of the time — without that it would have been severely hot and dry, but without the dust storm crises. About 12 million lbs. of dirt was blown into Chicago: not a normal climate cycle.

      dust bowl

      Contributing factors: Because of lower crop prices and higher machinery costs, more submarginal lands were put into production. Farmers also began to abandon their previous soil conservation practices. These events laid the groundwork for the severe soil erosion that would cause the Dust Bowl.

  4. Based on a bunch of assumptions without taking into consideration population growth over the same period of time.


What do you think?