Inspiring! Canada’s Air Quality Is Some of the Worst in the World

Wildfires in western Canada, the United States, and northern Ontario are causing smoky conditions in Canada’s major cities.
calgary stampede; air quality index; calgary
Visitors to the Stampede had to cope an Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) of ten with wildfire smoke blowing into Calgary, Alta., Sunday, July 18, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshh

Toronto’s air quality peaked at second worst among the world’s major cities on Monday afternoon, as hundreds of wildfires across Canada spread smoke all over the country. 

After Toronto ranked second to Jakarta, the city’s ranking dropped to fifth worst in the world behind Krasnoyarsk (Russia), Lima, Kuwait City, and New York, while sitting ahead of Kabul, Detroit, and Kolkata. According to IQAir, which monitors air quality around the world, the Canadian cities of Edmonton and Winnipeg have had even worse quality than Toronto at various points over the past week.


Environment Canada has issued smoke warnings, ranging from moderate risk to very high risk, for parts of Quebec, Ontario, and the western provinces. 

David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, told CTV News wind blowing from east to west has “imported” wildfire smoke from other parts of Canada and the U.S. into Alberta.

Smokey conditions in Toronto are caused by smoke blowing south from fires blazing in northwestern Ontario. 

Wildfires are tearing through western Canada and northern Ontario, with nearly 2 million hectares of forest already incinerated—or enough land to cover the city of Toronto 30 times. That’s nearly 10 times more area burned already than all the forest incinerated last year, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC). 

The agency reported that B.C. has had 1,097 wildfires so far in 2021, compared to 210 last year, while Saskatchewan is at 424 so far this year, compared to 88 in 2020.

CIFFC executive director Kim Connors told the Globe and Mail “this is far from over.” 


“There’s a lot of work to do. Some of these are big fires and they burn deep. They’re very hot fires and it takes a lot of work to put these fires out,” Connors said, adding it’s the most active fire season he’s seen in years. 

The situation is so bad that provinces like B.C. are calling on out-of-province firefighters to support their efforts—but most firefighters are too busy extinguishing blazes in their own regions. About 100 firefighters are due to arrive in B.C. from Mexico on Saturday, the Globe reported, while 20 from Quebec are already in the province.

For decades, climate scientists have been issuing dire warnings about the climate crisis. This year, however, they say they’re surprised by how quickly extreme weather events have escalated.

Earlier in July, a “heat dome” engulfed huge swaths of western Canada and U.S. states, killing hundreds of people and thousands of marine animals and plants. A small B.C. town was destroyed by a fire after breaking Canada’s heat record three days in a row, peaking at 49.6 C. Extreme floods in Germany—the worst in decades—have killed at least 160 people, while at least 170 are still missing.  

Merritt Turetsky, director at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, told CNN she hopes the recent spate of fatal weather events inspires people to combat the climate crisis.

“We know there is a cognitive dissonance when climate change is impacting people so far away from you and everything you know. We tend to put it on a shelf, because it’s one thing to see ‘this is what they say,’ but it’s another thing to feel it,” Turetsky said. “We’re at a point where everyone on the planet now has felt the impacts of climate change itself, or at least someone they love or know has. It’s circling in closer and closer.”

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