Climate Change and Wildfires: Urgent Action Needed for Effective Disaster Management

Christopher Ankersen (Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, NYU), Jean Slick (Program Head and Associate Professor in Disaster and Emergency Management, Royal Roads University), and Gordon McBean (Professor Emeritus and Director for Policy, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at Western University’s Department of Geography) emphasize the urgent need for a civilian-led response mechanism to address the escalating climate-related crises and disasters in Canada. Given the escalating frequency and severity of wildfires driven by climate change, it is imperative to explore effective strategies and collaborative approaches to mitigate these risks and safeguard communities.

The Impact of Climate Change on Canadian Wildfires:

Climate change significantly influences the increasing occurrence and intensity of wildfires in Canada. Rising temperatures and reduced humidity resulting from climate change create drier conditions that are more conducive to wildfires. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledges the global role of climate change in wildfires, its specific focus on Canadian wildfires is limited. Nevertheless, the IPCC’s assessment underscores the overarching impact of climate change on these events.

The wildfires in Canada also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, including the release of potent gases like methane, which further exacerbate the climate change problem. Therefore, it is imperative to develop mitigation strategies that not only address emissions from wildfires but also target other sources to effectively combat the climate crisis.

Challenges in Establishing a National Disaster Response Agency:

The establishment of a national disaster response agency in Canada faces challenges due to constitutional responsibilities that assign natural resources management to provinces. However, a unified approach is crucial to effectively address climate-related disasters that transcend provincial boundaries and have international implications.

Collaboration between a National Disaster Response Agency and the Military:

Collaboration between a national disaster response agency and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is essential for optimizing resources and ensuring a coordinated response during crises. Policymakers should establish interdepartmental committees and adopt integrated approaches involving experienced personnel from various government levels to facilitate effective collaboration.

Policy Recommendations:

Engaging Communities and Addressing Impacts:

Engaging communities and raising awareness about climate change impacts are crucial. Empowering individuals to take action and providing accurate scientific communication tailored to local contexts are key. Additionally, addressing the mental, physical, and economic consequences of climate-related disasters is vital for safeguarding communities and building resilience.

Strengthening the Disaster Management Framework:

Aligning Canada’s Disaster Management Framework with international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction will provide a comprehensive approach to risk reduction and resilience-building. This approach emphasizes proactive measures, early warning systems, and community engagement.

Enhancing Risk Governance:

Improving the governance structure for disaster risk management involves establishing clear roles and responsibilities for all levels of government. This includes coordinating efforts between federal, provincial, and municipal authorities and fostering partnerships with Indigenous communities, NGOs, and private sector stakeholders.

Investing in Risk Reduction and Resilience:

Allocating resources towards risk reduction measures, such as ecosystem restoration, forest management practices, and infrastructure upgrades that consider climate change impacts, is crucial. Prioritizing nature-based solutions that enhance ecosystem resilience and reduce the risk of wildfires is recommended.

Improving Preparedness and Response Capabilities:

Enhancing training programs for emergency responders, including firefighters, to effectively combat wildfires is essential. Developing standardized protocols, information-sharing mechanisms, and technology platforms that facilitate real-time situational awareness and coordination during disasters are important steps.


The escalating Canadian wildfires and the growing frequency of climate-related disasters necessitate proactive measures and integrated strategies. Enhancing collaboration, establishing a civilian-led response mechanism, strengthening disaster management policies, and investing in preparedness and response capabilities are crucial for mitigating the impacts of wildfires and other climate-related disasters in Canada.

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