forest fire
Climate alarmism was in overdrive last week as smoke from Canadian wildfires drifted over heavily populated areas of North America. The BBC reported the fires under the category 'Climate Change', while local Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault noted the "threat of increased fires due to climate change". Lightly-smoked New York City Mayor Eric Adams said climate change has "accelerated these conditions". But, alas, not all agree. Notably, the climate alarmist bible produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says weather is not the most important factor in fire. Most fires are started by humans. "Human activities have become the dominant driver," it observes.

On any sensible reckoning, wildfires are a bit of a dud when it comes to alarming populations about climate change and driving them down the collectivist Net Zero route. According to the science writer and former economics professor Roger Pielke Jr., global wildfires have decreased in recent decades, while neither Canada nor Quebec have seen increases this century. Fire incidence across Canada is lower today than in centuries past, he notes.
canada fires
The above graph plots the gradual decline of global emissions from wildfires over recent decades. As Dr. Pielke notes, this is something the media will not tell you about wildfires.

canada fires
The fires last week were particularly bad around Quebec, but there is no sign, as the graph above shows, of a long term increase in fire activity. As Dr. Pielke observes, recent years have been unusually quiet. It might be suggested that matters would be helped further if people learnt to be more careful with matches. The graphs below show that the majority of fires in Quebec and the area that they burned over the past decade are caused by humans, with the balance attributed to lightning. Others have noted that the lack of fires in recent years has resulted in a build-up of deadwood on the forest floor, and that a reduction in controlled burning has not helped.
canada fires
Dr. Pielke goes on to note that the IPCC has not detected or attributed fire occurrence or area burned to human-caused climate change. Rather, the IPCC focuses on 'fire weather', which it defines as weather conditions "conducive to triggering and sustaining wildfires". But a lot of this is highly speculative, and the IPCC seems reticent in promoting any signal of human-caused climate change in future wildfire development. Even out to 2100 and using the implausible SSP5-8.5 pathway with its 5ยฐC boost to temperatures, the IPCC sees no human signal for the 'fire weather' category.

In short, continues Dr. Pielke, the IPCC does not provide a basis for strong claims of detection or attribution of 'fire weather' to climate change. It is "silent" on trends in fire numbers and area burned. "These conclusions are contrary to almost all media reporting," he adds.

If you are a climate alarmist, frankly there are times when the IPCC can be a little disappointing.

In the last few years, a major pseudoscientific industry has grown up using climate models to 'attribute' individual weather events to long-term changes in the climate. Various simulations that imagine atmospheres with and without human-produced carbon dioxide are fed into models and the resulting hocus pocus pumps up media headlines. Of course, to take the individual attributions seriously, one needs to assume the models have been fed correct information in the first place. The past record of models trying to model the chaotic, non-linear atmosphere does not inspire confidence in this particular project.

In a previous article, Roger Pielke suggested that the rise of these individual event attribution studies coincided with frustration that the IPCC has not "definitively concluded" that many types of extreme weather have become commonplace. In his view, such studies offer "comfort and support" to those focused on climate advocacy. Since they fill a strong demand in politics, Dr. Pielke suggests they are "here to stay". But he also notes that he can think of no other area of research "where the relaxing of rigour and standards has been encouraged by researchers in order to generate claims more friendly to headlines, political advocacy and even lawsuits".
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic's Environment Editor.