The Northeastern United States has been blanketed with a dull orange haze these past few days, the resulting smoke blowing southward from Quebec and other eastern provinces of Canada where over a hundred wildfires have been raging out of control. More than a dozen states have issued air quality warnings, and everything smells and tastes like a campfire. While such things are common out west, this is a new experience for people living in this half of the country, and the effect is every bit as ominous as the photos you've seen floating around social media.
Thus far at least 3.3 million hectares of forest have burned -- more than ten times the 10-year average -- and more than 120,000 people have been forced from their homes. It is nothing short of a disaster. Of course, disasters are the political Left's bread and butter, and this one is no exception. Both the Canadian and American Left are falling all over themselves to blame these wildfires on their favorite bogeyman, "climate change." Here's one example:
And he isn't alone:
It need hardly be said, but pulling out this bugbear while people are in the process of being evacuated from their homes is extremely offensive. It's also complete and utter tosh. We don't currently know how these particular wildfires started, and we might never know. But we do know a few things.
First, we know that the wildfire trend lines over the past several decades have decreased, rather than increased. That's not what you would expect if the primary culprit was increased "carbon emissions."
If we zoom out even further, looking back centuries rather than decades, we see that wildfires were once significantly more common than they have been of late. This is something that Bjorn Lomborg touched on a few years ago when refuting the claim that California's wildfires are to be primarily blamed on "climate change":
Old newspapers across the country were filled with descriptions of terrible fires. Back then, “skies were likely smoky much of the summer and fall in California,” as one academic paper noted. Elsewhere in the country in 1781, “the smoke was so dense that many persons thought the day of judgment had come,” The New York Times reported a century later. This all changed after 1900, when fire suppression became the norm, and fire declined precipitously. In the last half of the 20th century, only about 250,000 acres burned annually.
Next, there's the reading on the situation from the ground. Locals in Quebec have been describing this season as a “perfect storm” of forest fire conditions -- “Very low humidity, no rain, strong winds and many thunderstorms and lightning strikes.” Even before this present spate of fires, the Quebec government had been warning people to avoid camping and other activity the forests in the short term because of the dry weather and "the extreme flammability rating" in the province at the time. Residents of the American northeast have been getting the same warnings on their smart phones for more than a month. So if these fires were originally caused by a lightning strike, they constitute what the insurance industry refers to as an Act of God. Or else perhaps it was caused by a cigarette or a smoldering camp fire -- an unintentional act of man.
Or might it have been intentional? Wildfires have often been started by arson before. And, interestingly, even by environmentalists:
Which of these is the culprit? We currently have no way of knowing. And neither do the climate crowd. But the difference between us is that they never feel the need to try and find out. In the absence of facts they have resorted to assertions borne of their warped ideology. Their claim -- that the present "perfect storm" wildfire conditions wouldn't have come into effect at this moment in history if mankind had ceased to exist before, say, the industrial revolution -- is unfalsifiable, and thus meaningless.