Canada must “wake up and smell the smoke” and recognize rapid climate action as the only response to a season of wildfires and heat emergencies, Drs. Melissa Lem and Larry Barzelai of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment write in an op ed for the Vancouver Sun.
With hundreds of fires now burning across British Columbia, and across North America, Lem and Barzelai recall the scene during last year’s wildfire season. “Urban doctors’ offices and emergency rooms filled with patients complaining of sore throats, eye irritation, and wheezing as we sampled what so many families in rural B.C. fear and endure each summer.”
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Last year, the province saw a record 19 air quality advisories between July and September. This year, the fires are burning again, and “heat records are being smashed around the globe.”
The op ed points to the mental health issues that often face wildfire survivors, and cites science attributing more than half of global warming to fossil fuel use. Then it contrasts the C$35 million the federal government has budgeted to support a work force transition off coal with the $4.5 billion it’s spending to buy out Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
Lem and Barzelai declare the climate crisis a public health emergency, stressing that Canada “must divert more resources to a just and rapid transition to renewable energy sources, instead of enacting contradictory measures that ultimately increase our use of fossil fuels. The health of our forests, air, and people in big and small communities across this nation depends on it.”