Smith refuses to blame forest fires on climate change
Danielle Smith challenges climate change link to forest fires.

Mike Campbell

August 15, 2023

Premier Danielle Smith was practically begged to blame climate change on the record breaking number of forest fires in Alberta — but she refused, noting that most of them were caused by humans.

Smith refuses to blame forest fires on climate change

Alberta has already had 972 wildfires so far this year, according to the government’s Wildfire Status Dashboard. Last year, the province had 829 wildfires. 

Asked by CTV’s Omar Sachedina if she sees a connection, Smith didn’t answer the question and instead reiterated her plan to have Alberta become carbon neutral by 2050, rather than the feds’ 2035 target. 

Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard, from 2018 – to (August) 2023

But Sachedina pressed Smith to answer if she saw a connection. 

“All I know is in my province we have 650 fires and 500 of them were human caused,” she said.

Smith further stressed the importance of following fire bans to avoid accidentally starting a fire. 

After Sachedina asked Smith for a third time if she saw a connection between the forest fires and climate change, she said “We are quite happy working towards a 2050 target.”

Smith added, “Wildfire season happens every single year, it’s going to continue happening every single year, and we have to make sure that we’re managing and mitigating and making sure that we educate the public about the role that they play in causing those fires.” 

Are forest fires due to climate change?

The annual number of wildfires in Canada over the past 40 years appears to be relatively stable, if not slightly decreasing. In spite of this, the usual suspects continue to politicize the fires.

In June, Trudeau’s former advisor and long time pal Gerald Butts appeared to blame human-started forest fires – including those started intentionally – on climate change.

This said, 2023 is a record breaking year for forest fires in Canada (since 1980) in terms of hectares burned. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre Inc, 13.2 million hectares have already burned in Canada due to forest fires in 2023. 

The previous record since 1980 was in 1989 when around 7.5 million hectares burned from forest fires, meaning this year is on pace to more than double the previous 41-year record.

However, 2020 was a record breaking year in Canada, but for the opposite reason. Just three years ago, Canada had the fewest amount of forest fires in its 41-year history of tracking them — and this includes the fewest amount of hectares burned.   

A few individuals in Alberta have been charged by the RCMP in connection to forest fires, though the vast majority of the human-started forest fires were likely accidental.

Last month, BC’s Coastal Fire Centre indicated that every forest fire on Vancouver Island this year — all 46 of them — was started by humans.

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