'They have a human component': Canadian wildfires set off heated political debate in US
On June 7 and 8, the skylines of New York, Philadelphia and other northeastern cities were obscured by all the smoke in the air. Residents complained that when they went outside, it smelled like there were major fires in their neighborhoods.
But the smoke that made their air unhealthy to breathe didn't originate in the U.S. It was coming from wildfires hundreds of miles to the north in Quebec, Canada.
According to Axios reporter Andrew Freedman, the Canadian wildfires underscore the United States' political divisions. Climate change activists have cited the wildfires as an example of the type of damage that climate change can inflict, while far-right Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) insists that climate change has nothing to do with it.
Marshall Burke, a climate change researcher at Stanford University in California, told Axios, "They have a human component. We should not think of these (wildfires) as a random occurrence."
Some Democrats, Freedman reports, are urging President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency. But Mullin, a far-right MAGA Republican, told Axios, "It's totally unrelated. It's smoke from a forest fire that's, by the way, a natural forest fire."
At a townhall event presented by CNN on June 7, former Vice President Mike Pence told attendees, "Let me just say that clearly, the climate is changing." However, Pence added that climate change isn't occurring "as dramatically as the radical environmentalists like to present, but there's change."
In a separate article published on June 12, Axios' Rebecca Falconer stresses that Canadian officials fear the wildfires won't be limited to June.
Quebec Minister of Public Security Francois Bonnardel told Agence-France Presse (AFP), "This is a first in the history of Quebec to fight so many fires, to evacuate so many people. We are going to have a fight that we think will last all summer.... We haven't yet won the battle."
Falconer reports that as of June 11, there were "435 wildfires" burning in Canada. And Quebec wasn't the only Canadian province being affected; evacuations were being ordered far to the west in Alberta and British Columbia.
Falconer notes that "smoke is likely to continue to impact the northern tier of the U.S. over the next several months as Canada deals with its wildfire crisis."
"Smoke from wildfires poses a serious threat to people's health," Falconer warns. " It can be hazardous to people's health even hundreds of miles away from a fire, as it carries harmful microscopic particles that can cause inflammation in the lungs…. Climate change is leading to more instances of critical fire weather across the U.S. and other parts of the world, including the Far North, where larger, more frequent fires have been observed in recent years."
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