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Climate chaos fuelling Alberta wildfires

Brian Champ

May 15, 2024
While regions closer to the equator have borne the brunt of the climate crisis, once again the devastation is being felt in Canada. 
Almost 7,000 people are fleeing Fort McMurray as a wildfire that has already consumed 21,000 hectares of forest has threatened the town. It brings back memories of 2016, when wildfire destroyed huge swaths of the town and forced the evacuation of 90,000 residents. 
And of course it is a reminder of the record wildfires from last year that burnt over 14 million hectares and released nearly 500 megatons of carbon into the atmosphere - almost 75% of the carbon emissions reported in the official carbon budget. In BC and Alberta over 100 fires continued to smoulder underground over the winter, as conditions in many areas remained dry. On the Canadian Interagency Fire Fighters Centre website (, the situation report for May 14th shows the YTD area burnt is already 1.65 million hectares - this is higher than the area that had burnt (650,000 hectares) by the same day a year ago. 
Most of the area affected is in Alberta which is facing a water crisis and where conditions are very dry. In February, the union representing firefighters in the province warned of a shortage of personnel. This is entirely due to the public service cutbacks driven by the anti-worker UCP government that is ideologically opposed to transitioning to a low carbon economy. The paused investments in renewable energy projects last Fall and Winter and banned wind turbines in scenic areas. 
While the Canada-wide wildfires may not reach the proportions of last year's record of destruction - and it is still very early in the fire season - there can be no sense of complacency about the need for urgent action for a just transition to a low carbon economy. The challenges are immense, as we face different forms of climate change denial.
At the federal level the Liberals build pipelines and subsidize fossil fuel companies while pretending that market based mechanisms will drive the transition. At the provincial level, a variety of governments led by left and right parties also undermine any real transition. In BC, the NDP policies are very similar to the federal Liberals, while in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario right wing governments engage in outright climate denial.
A change of politics is needed that is driven by movements for climate justice in opposition to the weak efforts of our so-called leaders before it is too late.
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