'Food for Thought' - Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture and Food Security in Canada

by spalmer on October 6, 2017 - 10:58pm

 

As temperatures across the globe continue to rise, the severity of droughts and floods has also continued to escalate. While global warming is expected to result in crop failures in many parts of the world, Canadians may see something different: agricultural expansion. 

 

A recent article written by Chris Arsenault of Global News stated that “rising temperatures could open millions of once frigid acres to the plow”. Meaning that Canada is one of the few countries that may experience an increase of agricultural opportunities as a result of climate change. As rising heat and extreme weather continues to stifle harvests in some southern regions, the ever growing number of “hungry mouths” may look to northern nations, like Canada, for help. Warmer climates can offer Canadian farmers the ability to capitalize on opportunities, such as increasing agricultural exports to the regions crippled by rising heat and crop failure. Arsenault later states that climate change alone will not make Canadian land economically viable for agriculture. Remote regions will need irrigation systems and advanced infrastructure to become the next frontier in the farming industry. Climate change and it’s effects on Canada’s agricultural regions also raises concerns regarding current growing patterns, and our ability to manage water resources. Without continual adaptation to new shifts in climate, farm failures and soil erosion similar to the 1930’s “Dust Bowl Drought” could be an inevitable future. 

 

A flaw of Arsenault’s article is that he assumes nature to be a generally predictable and manipulable machine. He assumes climate change as a tool that can engineer and manipulate nature to offer fertile land and prosperous, agricultural gain. Wherein the situation of global warming, the effects of climate change are highly uncertain. Uncertainty, as defined in lecture material, is the state of an issue not known with certainty, a state that is likely to change, not reliable, not constant, is varying or unpredictable. In terms of resilience, we are unable to determine the level of disturbance, or ecological change, Canadian land can tolerate before we must completely alter the processes we use to manage our agricultural land. In other words, it is difficult to determine how prosperous the Canadian agricultural industry can be if we are unsure of where, what and how we are going to grow crops. As maximum sustainable yield is constantly fluctuating, treating systems like a predictable machine reduces resiliency. 

Increasing dynamic regulation and continual adaptation in management can help to ensure that political and ecological uncertainty is mitigated. An article written by Rainforest Alliance in Global Citizen offers several ways of maintaining “climate-smart agriculture”. As a result of agriculture’s vast consumption of the world’s freshwater resources, water conservation is incredibly important. Planting a buffer of trees and shrubbery can enrich soil and help prevent erosion. Treating wastewater before it’s released back into the environment can also help to support the health and well-being of surrounding ecosystems. Movement towards “smart” regulation and the enlistment of the agricultural industry as a partner in management can help create a multifaceted approach to assessing resource issues that occur with rising temperatures in Canada.

 

While improvements in agricultural technology, drought-resistant crops and a movement towards “smart” regulation may mean that Canadian farmers are prepared for warmer temperatures and a growing agricultural industry, uncertainty threatens the potential rewards of climate change in Canada. We must move towards accepting nature as an unpredictable force, needing constant and dynamic management if we are going to prosper globally as temperatures continue to rise. 

 

References:

 

Arsenault, C. (2017, September 25). In Canada, climate change could open new farmland to the plow. In Global News. Retrieved October 6, 2017.

 

Rainforest Alliance, . (2016, September 30). 5 Ways Farmers can Combat Climate Change. In Global Citizen. Retrieved October 6, 2017.

 

 

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