Rise in extreme wildfires linked directly to emissions from oil companies in new study

Researchers set out to clearly quantify connection between companies, emissions and climate events

Date: Friday, May 24, 2023
Complete Article: CBC


As fires blaze in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C., new research has drawn a direct and measurable link between carbon emissions traced back to the world’s major fossil fuel producers and the increase in extreme wildfires across western Canada and the United States.

The peer-reviewed study, published last week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that 37 per cent of the total burned forest area in Western Canada and the United States between 1986-2021 can be traced back to 88 major fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers.

“What we found is that the emissions from these companies have dramatically increased wildfire activity.”

Using modelling data, researchers were able to determine that emissions traced back to those 88 companies resulted in an additional 80,000 kilometres squared being burned. That’s an area larger than the size of Ireland.

“Part of what this study does is show the linkages between these companies, their emissions and climate impacts, which will hopefully allow them to be held accountable for their fair share of the costs associated with wildfire,” said Carly Phillips, co-author on the study.

“I think the accountability piece for fossil fuel companies is really important and part of what makes this research unique. We know that historically industries have been held accountable for the risks of their products, whether it be tobacco or asbestos. And a big part of holding those companies accountable was research showing the linkages between their product and the impact.”

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