Anti-science fanatics and conservative talking heads have spent this week contorting themselves to imagine that global climate change is not exacerbating wildfires around the world.
In the United States, groups of climate change deniers have claimed that the total number of wildfires is falling, ignoring the growing size and severity of the underworld. In Canada, right-wing politicians have clung to what they say is a coordinated arson campaign, ignoring that fires are fueled by conditions on the ground, however they start.
The partisan response – which has happened repeatedly amid extreme wildfires across the US – comes amid what a Stanford University research team confirmed to be the worst wildfire smoke day on record in the United States. The toxic plumes that have crippled cities across the Northeast and Midwest in recent days are coming from “unprecedented» forest fires in neighboring Canada after a prolonged heat wave in May which broke several temperature records.
As usual, the Heartland Institute is spearheading the right-wing disinformation campaign. In a statement Thursday, the group — known for its annual climate change denial and conspiracy conference – said “the reality is that wildfires are becoming less frequent and severe as the planet warms modestly,” without bothering to link to a single study as evidence.
“Climate activists are embarrassed when they claim that the fewest wildfires that still occur must be caused by climate change and are evidence of a climate crisis,” said James Taylor, chairman of the group. , in a press release.
Mandy Gunasekara, former senior Environmental Protection Agency official under the President donald trump and a key figure in the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, peddled that same message in an interview Friday with fringe conservative network Newsmax TV.
Wildfires in Canada “have declined over the past 100 years,” she wrote in a Tweeter promote its appearance. “These facts haven’t stopped the Biden team from fearmongering about them. It’s not climate change that’s the problem, it’s climate hysteria.
At best, the Heartland Institute and Gunasekara curate the data to fit their own agendas.
It’s true that the total number of annual fires in Canada has declined in recent decades, from around 87,000 fires in the 1980s to 60,000 in the 2010s, according to CBC News. analysis national data.
But the number of wildfires says nothing about their size, severity, and the myriad of complex forces driving extreme fire behavior, including climate impacts and decades of fire suppression. Wildfires are expected to grow more severe as climate change fuels heat waves and worsening droughts.
The Canadian government has released a national risk report last month, which revealed that the total area burned each year by forest fires has more than doubled since the 1970s and is expected to double again by the end of the century.
“The impacts of climate change on wildfires are already being felt and are projected to result in a dramatic increase in variation and extreme weather conditions conducive to fires,” the federal report said. “Nationally, climate change is lengthening fire seasons and contributing to increased intensity, frequency and size of wildfires, regardless of the ever-increasing effectiveness of control tactics. extinguishing fires.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that the nation is experiencing its “worst wildfire season” recorded. By Friday, the fires had consumed nearly 11 million acres, about 15 times the 10-year average, according to the Canadian Interagency Wildfire Center. It is a larger area than Maryland.
The situation mirrors that of the United States. Although the number of fires year over year has declined slightly since the mid-1980s, their size and the total annual area burned have significantly increased. Since 2000, wildfires in the United States have consumed an average of 7 million acres per year, more than double the annual average of 3.3 million acres in the 1990s.
In 2020, when historic wildfires raged through Australia, conservationists including Donald Trump Jr.. And FoxNews host Sean Hannity, focused their attention not on clear trends in fire size and behavior, but on cases of suspected arson. In doing so, they conveniently ignored that the majority of fires were started by lightning.
Similarly, when wildfires were raging in the Pacific Northwest that same year, Loren Culp, the Republican candidate for governor of Washington state, pushed a conspiracy theory on the internet that they were the result of a coordinated arson campaign.
The same right-wing conspiracy has emerged in Canada.
“I bet a lot of the wildfires raging across the country were started by green terrorists who want to give their climate change campaign a little boost,” Maxime Bernier, the chief of extreme right of the People’s Party of Canada, tweeted On Monday, link to a story about a woman charged with 32 counts of arson in connection with a series of wildfires in April. “The far left is adept at inventing and creating crises that they can then exploit.”
Danielle Smith, Alberta’s Conservative premier, has also promoted the idea, telling podcast host Ryan Jespersen she’s “very worried there are arsonists out there.”
“Denial, misinformation and partisan talking points have become an unfortunate part of extreme weather events.”
To be clear, arson is a problem. Every year, a handful of people are arrested for intentionally setting fires. But focusing on arson distracts from the realities and scale of the current problem.
“The charge of arson is commonly used to distract from the real drivers of these extreme wildfires and their impacts on people and ecosystems,” said Lori Daniels, a forestry professor at the University of British Columbia. told the Toronto Star. “Pointing the finger at false causes for political gain is an insult to the people who lost their homes, to the firefighters trying to stop these wildfires, and to everyone affected by the smoke and other side effects. “
Lightning and human negligence are believed to be the main triggers for the current wave of fires.
Denial, misinformation and partisan arguments have become an unfortunate part of extreme weather events, as climate change – for reasons that defy logic – remains a partisan issue. But the most disgusting segment of quackery this week comes back to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham show, which gave anti-science hack and professional troll Steve Milloy a microphone.
Milloy, a staunch climate change denier and former tobacco and coal lobbyist with no medical training, has falsely claimed that the smoke from the wildfires blanketing cities like New York and Washington, D.C. poses no danger to human health. .
“Look, it’s ugly, it’s unpleasant to breathe, and for a lot of people it worries them,” Milloy told Ingraham. “But the reality is that there is no health risk, okay? There’s EPA research; they’ve done a lot of clinical research on asthmatics, on elderly asthmatics, on children, on elderly people with heart disease – not a cough or wheeze from any of them.
His claim is say bullshit.
Like HuffPost reported On Thursday, Republican lawmakers in Washington took somersaults this week to ignore or downplay the connection between wildfires and global warming, instead using the smoke event to peddle pro-logging talking points about the need better “forest management”.