Though Canada has fared reasonably well through the pandemic, there is significant healing to be done by communities and between individuals who may have dismissed their commonalities in favour of their strong opinions. Canada cannot afford any further divisions any more than the rest of the world can with warnings about how severe the threat of irreversible seismic shifts to our planet are.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a detailed assessment on the science at the end of February and the impacts are happening faster and are more severe than predicted. As aptly noted in the report by Inger Andersen, the UN’s environment programme director: “Climate change isn’t lurking around the corner waiting to pounce. It’s already upon us, raining down blows on billions of people.”
And, in a more direct quote from the report for the fire service: “Difficult choices will have to be made. Which fires do we just let burn because we don’t have enough equipment to go around?” said Linda Mearns, National Center for Atmospheric Research climate scientist and reviewer for the report’s chapter on North America.
Fire Fighting in Canada themed its 2022 Virtual Summit around climate change. Registration doubled from the previous year and attendees hailed from around the globe. Whether it’s wildfires, floods, extreme snow, extreme winds, or catastrophic heat, preparing for and leading the response to these climate events is a top concern for many of Canada’s fire chiefs. Managing a longer-term event with community-wide consequences is becoming more common. The need to prepare and pool resources — to work together — was emphasized time and again throughout the event.
Throughout the pandemic, we have heard political leaders say that they are “listening to the science” in terms of their response. Listening to the science on climate change is like tuning into a dystopian, apocalyptic audiobook. It’s terrifying. But face it we must and will. For the fire service, listening to the science means paying attention to the potential risks in your community and putting concentrated effort towards helping your community and department be prepared.
Canada’s fire service can and should partake in environmentally responsible actions and be models of leadership in this regard, but ultimately the mitigation of this global crisis requires global leadership. Should there be a weak and uncooridanted effort at the reins, the fire service are surely to be the ones on the frontlines of this failure.
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