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Air alerts are becoming far too common in Minnesota.

Minnesotans once found pride in their clean air, and the concept of air pollution alerts was something only big metro areas like Los Angeles had to deal with.

But then air quality alerts began coming in Minnesota, mostly in the metro and relatively low-grade and short lived. Still air pollution continued to be a problem, fueled in part by a growing Twin Cities area.

Now, in recent years, wildfires have fueled more frequent and more serious air pollution.

All of Minnesota was under an air alert from last Sunday into Monday due to Canadian wildfires. The first alert of the season was a serious one, covering all of the state and having the potential to be harmful to everyone, even healthy people.

Air pollution, from whatever sources, is unhealthy and terribly costly. Estimates are that air pollution costs hundreds of billions of dollars in the U.S. annually, consuming some 3% of the nation's GDP.

The costs come in an array of forms, from added health care expenditures, costs related to damage and lost ecosystems, lower workplace productivity and decreased tourism.

The danger and damage we're seeing more frequently from wildfires around the country and the world is another reason to stick with efforts to reduce climate change.

The longer, hotter summers and increased frequency of erratic weather — including long droughts and high winds — will continue to set up increased wildfire risk.

But beyond climate change, reducing the number and severity of wildfires requires new approaches by governments and the logging industry.

Last year Canada saw a record number of wildfires, with firefighters battling fires across the country. More than 45 million acres were burned and 250,000 people had to be evacuated at some point, some more than once. Four firefighters died.

Experts say that instead of just focusing on putting out fires, government agencies, the logging industry and others need to focus on preventing fires from starting.

That includes closing forests or other fire-prone areas to the public when conditions are high for fires, upping the number of patrols and using new technologies to detect more fires when they are smaller and can more easily be controlled.

Climate change that's already happened will continue to fuel bad air quality, but if we make reducing greenhouse gas emissions a priority, along with other changes, we can reduce the worst damage.