This article originally appeared in the National Post.
Chris Sankey, July 31, 2023
Recent forest fires in Canada and around the world have sparked fear and outrage from those who have been impacted by them. Overeager ecological activists have been quick to take advantage of this and are misleading Canadians about the probability of future fires. Large forest fires make everyone nervous, and deservedly so, but attributing every fire to climate change is both scientifically unsound and horribly opportunistic.
The recent plague of forest fires has heightened climate alarmism. For climate activists with a vested interest in maintaining the narrative that the “planet is burning,” offering a more complex portrait of the situation is more difficult than sticking to the standard line.
Activists engaged in systemic exaggeration and the deliberate avoidance of conflicting evidence undercut our ability to understand the issues and thereby prevent informed, responsible action.
Fires occur naturally from lightning and heat. Add inconsistent forest management practices and you end up with a giant tinderbox.
What is missing is a balanced and fair assessment of an obvious truth: a sizable number of forest fires are not related to climate change but, instead, are a result of human activity, such as campfires and ATVs, questionable forest management practices and even arson.
Eco-activists and environmental NGOs want us to believe that there is a climate crisis and that fossil fuels are the cause of virtually all of these fires. Yet recent news stories about the causes of various forest fires suggests that attributing them all to climate change is misleading to say the least.
The activists hope to produce radical and dramatic environmental action, like accelerated carbon taxes — a policy that simply doesn’t fulfill its purpose, especially in a large, northern country like Canada where cold weather and long distances will ensure we continue to be a heavy consumer of energy.
Climate change is happening, although less dramatically than the extreme eco-activists repeatedly say. The assertion, made so blithely and repeatedly, that every forest fire is directly attributable to climate change and that this summer’s fires are a sign of impending doom are simply irresponsible.
As shown in California and Australia, both of which have suffered from intense forest fires in recent years, issues of forest management, over-development of ecologically vulnerable areas and expanded human activity in forested areas play significant roles in the proliferation of fires.
We need to move towards a clear, honest dialogue in our discussion of the recent fires. As a starting point, we need a public conversation about the manipulation of public opinion by interested environmental organizations.
Forest fires are bad enough. Misinformation, deception, exaggeration and wilful ignorance make things much worse, heightens anxiety, prompts inappropriate policy responses and forces the country toward costly and aggressive climate change policies that have a detrimental effect on the economy.
I abhor the false and misleading information that the public has been force-fed. Government officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, have repeatedly used forest fires to justify increased carbon taxes and aggressive climate change interventions.
I ask the government to stop blaming climate change, to step back from partisan rhetoric and exaggeration, and to look at the complex set of factors contributing to the rash of forest fires.
I doubt I am alone in being fed up with hyperbole and exaggeration. People have lost their homes and their livelihoods. A helicopter pilot and firefighter tragically lost their lives recently. These unfortunate incidents are blamed on climate change. Yet if we continue to blame climate change for the forest fires, Canadians are allowing environmentalist radicals to fool us all.
Let’s opt for honesty, clarity and truth-telling. Climate change is a serious matter, but so are human-induced forest fires. Do not ignore the other human-related factors that contribute to the burning of our forests.
Chris Sankey is a former elected councillor for the Lax Kw’ Alaams Band, a businessman and a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.