Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 3 December 2020

B.C. wildfires stoked by climate change, likely to become worse: study

Fires consumed a record 1.2 million hectares that year – an area seven to 11 times larger than would have been expected without human influences on the climate.

“Understanding the link between human-caused climate change and extreme events like these wildfires will help us to focus adaptation plans and will help groups that do work in any of those sectors understand that climate is something that they need to be considering, if they’re not already.”

Wildfires that scorched vast tracts of southern British Columbia and led to forced evacuations in the summer of 2017 were stoked by climate change and are likely to become more common as global temperatures edge up, federal scientists warn in a new study.

Fires consumed a record 1.2 million hectares that year – an area seven to 11 times larger than would have been expected without human influences on the climate, study authors led by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) research scientist Megan Kirchmeier-Young said.

The study was published late last year in the American Geophysical Union’s Earth’s Future scientific journal and led by Ms. Kirchmeier-Young and colleagues at the University of Victoria’s Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium.

It points to major public-policy challenges in a province already grappling with a sharp rise in disaster-related costs, with implications for everything from public health and infrastructure to forest management, the authors contend.

The findings add to a growing body of research linking climate change and extreme weather events such as heat waves, flooding and retreating sea ice. Federal scientists say that the risk of Western fires since 2015 has increased two to six times due to human-induced warming and that there were more fires than ever last year, with the total area burned about double longer-term averages.

“Our climate is changing as a result of human influence and Canadians are already noticing the effects,” Ms. Kirchmeier-Young said in an interview.

“Understanding the link between human-caused climate change and extreme events like these wildfires will help us to focus adaptation plans and will help groups that do work in any of those sectors understand that climate is something that they need to be considering, if they’re not already.”

Updated: January 16, 2020 11:04 AM

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