What are the health risks of breathing air polluted by smoke from wildfires?
Smoke from wildfires contains tiny particles a 30th the width of human hair, small enough to be absorbed by human lungs and then the bloodstream. With enough exposure, these particles can irritate the eyes and throat, aggravate asthma, decrease lung function, inflame airways, trigger nonfatal heart attacks, and even cause premature death in those with existing lung or heart disease. At one point last week, air in New York City contained 11 times more of this small particulate matter than is considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What’s the connection between wildfires and climate change?
No single fire is directly caused by climate change. Warming temperatures, extended droughts, and other consequences of climate change can, however, turn a forest into a tinderbox, making for longer and more active wildfire seasons and creating the conditions for forests to burn, and fires to spread, faster than they would otherwise.
How is climate playing out in these fires in Canada?
Warmer temperatures and less precipitation than normal turned much of Canada’s native forestland into a tinderbox this spring, creating the conditions for these calamitous fires. Large swaths of Canada, specifically Alberta and Saskatchewan, have experienced abnormally dry conditions and even drought for much of the year. Western Canada received less winter snowfall than usual. And much of the country experienced its warmest May on record, with temperatures soaring up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit above average in places. In Halifax last week, temperatures hit 18 degrees Fahrenheit above average, along with record-breaking seasonal highs in major cities like Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto.
What, in a nutshell, is driving the climate crisis?
What are the results?
Over the past century, we’ve warmed the earth about 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit. The 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2010.