Has Canada turned its forests into a carbon bomb?
I was shocked to learn how much carbon is being released by the terrible forest fires raging in Canada this year.
In fact, it’s many times higher than the entire economy of Canada, suggesting that our every effort to reduce our carbon output is wiped out by what’s pumped into the atmosphere by these fires.
“This year’s coast-to-coast wildfires in Canada have already emitted an estimated one-and-a-half billion tonnes of CO2. That’s triple the annual climate pollution from burning fossil fuels in Canada. It’s more than the combined emissions from 100 nations. And there are still months of fire season looming ahead,” writes Barry Saxifrage this week in an article that originally appeared in the National Observer.
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“Any guesses on how many Canadian gasoline-burning cars we must take off the road to offset that much CO2? All of them. Plus all our heavy-duty freight trucks and every other form of fossil-fueled road transport. Oh, and we also must stop burning natural gas in every Canadian home,” he adds.
Like many people, I had been of the opinion that our lustrous forests helped clean the environment, offsetting to some degree our polluting industries. Not so.
“There is this feel-good myth in Canada that our massive forest is offsetting some of our massive fossil fuel emissions,” says Saxifrage. “That might have been true decades ago under our old, stable climate. But we’ve so weakened our forest—through decades of business-as-usual industrial logging and fossil-fueled climate shifts—that it has switched to hemorrhaging CO2 instead of absorbing it.”
Climate change is making the fires worse, and the fires are fueling climate change – it’s a vicious circle. But as Saxifrage points out, the forest fires are fanned by Canada’s own mismanagement of the forests.
“If you’re like me, you’re probably starting to worry about how out-of-control this could get,” he adds ominously.
- Read “Managed to death: How Canada turned its forests into a carbon bomb,” by Barry Saxifrage, published on August 28, 2023 by The Bulletin
(Cover: A forest wildfire has occurred in Yukon Territory, Canada, generating smoke that fills the sky and even obscures the sunshine. Via Shutterstock)