Human-induced climate change played major role in B.C. wildfires: Study

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Researchers have concluded that human-induced climate change is largely to blame for the severity of forest fires that ripped through British Columbia in 2017.

A new study published in Earth’s Future has found that the 1.2-million hectare area that burned that year was seven to 11 times larger than it would have been without human influences on climate.

“As the climate continues to warm, we can expect that costly extreme wildfire seasons—like 2017, in BC—will become more likely in the future,” said Megan Kirchmeier-Young a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. “This will have increasing impacts on many sectors, including forest management, public health, and infrastructure.”

The 2017 wildfire season displaced 65,000 people and exposed millions to smoke-filled air. The area burned that year was record-setting, but was later surpassed in 2018, the study said.

Researchers found that extreme temperatures in B.C. during the 2017 summer were made more than 20 times more likely due to human-induced climate change.

Scientists from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria led the study and warned that extreme forest fires resulting from human influences on climate change will intensify in the future without further action.