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Climate change and forest fires

In Alberta, thousands of people from the High Level area were evacuated and 16 families lost their homes due to forest fires, according to reports May 31. On the day Premier Jason Kenney planned to announce the cancellation of the provincial Carbon Tax, the press conference was cancelled due to the heavy smoke in Edmonton – which was perhaps a little ironic, as more and more evidence links climate change to the increase in wildfires.

According to the Government of Alberta’s website, climate change can cause “more frequent droughts, floods and forest fires.” Changes in temperature and a reduction in soil moisture, the province states, have created conditions for a “greater incidence of forest fires.”

But the government hasn’t been doing much to combat this. According to provincial data, Alberta’s emissions totalled 267 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2013. Since 2005, these emissions have increased by 15 per cent, and the provincial government forecasts greenhouse gas emissions are likely to peak in the early 2020s.

What are we doing about it? First of all, we need to start acknowledging the reality of climate change and its impacts. Alberta should be taking action on the issue, instead of working around it.

Alberta-based journalist Graham Thomson wrote an opinion piece for iPolitics called Kenney not a climate change denier but a climate change dodger. It’s this denial among others that make it difficult for Alberta to move forward on climate change action.

Thomson quoted Kenney as saying, “There have always been forest fires. Back before human contact, there were forest fires that took millions of acres of forested land.” Although the statement is correct, it seeks to undermine the current effects climate change is having, especially in regard to its impact on increasing forest fires.

The premier said he accepts climate change while continuing to downplay it, particularly when it comes to man-made climate effects. Yes, forest fires and other natural disasters are caused by a number of different factors, but we have to stop denying the role humans play.

Overall, we have to start doing better. We all have a responsibility to take care of this planet, and we are failing to take climate change seriously. There needs to be more urgency for the environment and the well-being of future generations.

I’m not sure what the answer is or how we should go about combatting climate change, but I do know we need to start having more conversations about it. And we need to find out how to plan and take action in more meaningful ways.

About the Author: Lauryn Heintz

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