Wildfires, Our Health, and the Importance of Climate Action

This historic wildfire season in Canada has resulted in massive plumes of black smoke affecting the health of millions of Americans. New York City registered its worst air quality day in decades, and across the Eastern seaboard public health officials, schools, and healthcare systems are working quickly to provide the appropriate guidance to keep people safe from wildfire smoke, which is estimated to be ten times as toxic as the regular air pollution we breathe from burning fossil fuels. Climate change is driving wildfire events of worsening severity, frequency, and duration. If we continue burning fossil fuels that release carbon pollution at this rate, we can expect a 50% increase in wildfires by the end of the century.

The bad news is that the health harms of wildfires are not the only threats we face from climate change, as we are already experiencing more extreme weather events, extreme heat, droughts, floods, and insect-borne illnesses. The good news is that this dismal future for our health is not a foregone conclusion. We can take action now to stop carbon pollution and transition to cleaner forms of energy by fully, quickly, and equitably implementing the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act and overcoming opposition from those who would put profits before protecting our health. Doing so will reward us immediately with better health as we stabilize our climate and build toward a future where we can enjoy blue skies and clean air.

You can read more about climate change, wildfires, and their health effects here. If you are a parent, here are some practical tips on how to protect your children from wildfire smoke from the AAP. Here is an interview in the Washington Post with our Executive Director, Dr. Lisa Patel, with more tips for parents.

If you are concerned about these wildfires, we encourage you to join us in our mission to create a healthier world for generations to come. Sign up here to learn how you can become a force for change. Then, get connected with advocates who are already working on the ground through our Climate and Health State Network.