Mena Sahion and Tenille Faison
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A Blazing Summer: Climate’s Wake-Up Call

— Mena Sahion and Tenille Faison

During the summer of 2023, over 9.4 million acres of Canadian land burned with over 420 active wildfires, resulting in multiple weeks of dangerous smoke and air quality in several regions of Canada and the United States. On one day, June 7th, New York City was hit the hardest and declared as the city with the worst air quality in the world.

 Canada wildfires: North America air quality alerts in maps and images

Climate change is driving the increased frequency and intensity of wildfires that the world has experienced in the past couple of decades. Global warming induces dry and hot air conditions that can easily ignite biomass and vegetation in places like Texas, Florida, and California, where the climate is arid and hot during the summer and in the fall. Wildfires can also start as small fires caused by a spark or even a bolt of lightning that spreads across dry plants and trees with the help of wind. 

Wearing KN95 or N95 masks are necessary to protect your lungs against the harmful air quality that wildfires often cause. The special multi-layer fabric of these masks help block harmful airborne particles, known as particulate matter, which range from 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) to 10 micrometers (PM10) in diameter. These particles can be small enough to enter your lungs and bloodstream and cause or exacerbate lung and heart issues. Closing all windows and using a good indoor air purifier also helps prevent the inhalation of these dangerous particles.

It is highly probable that we have not seen the end of the dangerous air quality that New York City and much of the U.S. and Canada experienced on June 7th. Climate scientists have measured that the last seven years were the hottest on record, and predict that the Earth will continue to warm up and experience unpredictable and unprecedented weather conditions and extreme events. The United Nations has estimated that if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a significant way in the next five years, our planet will experience cataphoric and irreversible changes that will endanger all of our lives. All of our actions, big or small, do matter. Not blasting cold air through your AC over the summer and taking more public transportation are small steps that we can all take to ensure a better and more sustainable future.


References

The Visual Journalism Team. (2023, June 9). Canada wildfires: North America air quality alerts in maps and images. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-65856819

NYC Department of Health. (n.d.). Outdoor Air Quality. NYC.gov. https://www.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/air-quality-air-pollution-protection.page

EPA. (2024, January 19). Actions You Can Take to Reduce Air Pollution | Ground-level Ozone | New England | US EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www3.epa.gov/region1/airquality/reducepollution.html

Ajasa & Coletta. (July, 2023). How large are the Canadian wildfires, and who is suffering the smoke? Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/06/07/canada-wildfires-weather-air-quality/

California Department of Water Resources. (2023).  Climate change basics. Retrieved from https://water.ca.gov/Water-Basics/Climate-Change-Basics#:~:text=Most%20of%20California%20has%20a,climate%20has%20remained%20relatively%20stable

California Air Resources Board. (2023). Inhabitable particulate matter and health (PM2.5 and PM10). State of California. Retrieved from https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/inhalable-particulate-matter-and-health

Carrington, D. (2022, January). What is Climate Change? The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/10/climate-crisis-last-seven-years-the-hottest-on-record-2021-data-shows

Climate Clock. (n.d.). Climate Clock. Retrieved from https://climateclock.world/#:~:text=The%20next%20~7%20years%20is,the%20worst%20climate%20impacts%20inevitable.

United Nations. (2023). What is Climate Change? Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/what-is-climate-change

United Nations Climate Change. (2022, September). United in science: We are heading in the wrong direction. Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/news/united-in-science-we-are-heading-in-the-wrong-direction