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Claims about extreme weather 'overstated,' wildfires not actually increasing: BC think tank

Claims that extreme weather events are becoming worse and more common are mostly “overstated,” a report from a British Columbia think tank has said.

According to the Fraser Institute’s Kenneth P. Green, despite media and political activists asserting that “the evidence for increasing harms from increasing extreme weather is iron-clad, it is anything but.”

“Claims about extreme weather should not be used as the basis for committing to long-term regulatory regimes that will hurt current Canadian standards of living, and leave future generations worse off,” Green explained in a summary of his report.

He added: “Based on such assertions, governments are enacting ever more restrictive regulations on Canadian consumers of energy products, and especially Canada’s energy sector. These regulations impose significant costs on the Canadian economy, and can exert downward pressure on Canadians’ standard of living.”

<who> Photo credit: NowMedia

Green said that, contrary to the claims of many activists, “many types” of weather events “show no signs of increasing,” while some are in fact decreasing.

“Drought has shown no clear increasing trend, nor has flooding,” he said. “Hurricane intensity and number show no increasing trend.

“Globally, wildfires have shown no clear trend in increasing number or intensity, while in Canada, wildfires have actually been decreasing in number and areas consumed from the 1950s to the present.”

The BC Wildfire Service said in December that 2023's fire season was the most destructive in the province's history.

In his report, Green cites – and disagrees with – claims made by the broadcaster David Suzuki, politician Al Gore, left-wing activist Greta Thunberg and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

And while he agrees that extremes of temperature are on the increase globally, he highlights that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has less confidence in other extreme weather events such as wildfires, droughts and floods.

“There is only medium confidence that many extreme weather patterns have been seen to increase since 1950,” his report concludes.

“Other claims to have observed extreme weather changes since 1950 are given even less confidence by the IPCC.”

He adds: “While there is good evidence that Earth’s atmosphere is warming moderately, and that there are some sequelae to that which humans will have to accommodate, evidence for greater climate threats is overstated.”

When the IPCC released its Sixth Assessment Report on climate change in 2021, Guterres said it represented a “code red for humanity.”

He later said countries that are increasing their production of fossil fuels were “truly dangerous radicals.”

Earlier this month, meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was striving to ensure young people are “confident the world’s not going to be on fire when they’re adults and raising their own kids” in a reference to climate change.

Green’s report can be read in full here.

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