Climate Change and Canadian Agriculture: Some Knowledge Gaps

By Suren Kulshreshtha and Elaine Wheaton.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Canadian agriculture is a spatially heterogeneous industry and therefore, climate change currently does and in the future, would have different impacts in different regions. At a regional level, these impacts are related not only to different climate characteristics, but also to differing enterprise combinations. In general, for many Canadian regions, such impacts are estimated to be positive; however, increased frequency of extreme climate events may moderate these changes. A review of studies suggests a wide range of impacts on crop production–varying from large negative to large positive changes in yields of various crops. For livestock, empirical studies related to climate change impacts on livestock are lacking, although conceptually, impacts are negative due to adverse impacts on forage, pastures, and feed grain production, and on livestock productivity. Besides lack of research on the livestock sector, a number of other research gaps can be identified. The wide range of estimated impacts of climate change on crop yields may be a result of studies employing different methodologies, assumptions related to nature of climate change, especially regional precipitation, projection period, CO₂ fertilization effect, shift of agro-ecosystems, extreme climate events, air and water pollution, insect pests and diseases, and integrated effects, among others. Although many studies suggest that climate change could bring beneficial changes, the exact nature of these changes is not known. Research regarding agriculture productivity under future extreme climate event frequency, severity, duration and area is also lacking. Effects of climate change on weeds, insect pests and diseases are rarely considered. In many parts of the country, irrigation has been adopted as a practice to counteract vagaries of nature. However, climate change would affect water availability as temperatures and associated water demands climb, glaciers retreat (affecting water availability on the Prairies), and as aquifer yields decline. Climate change impact analyses would also require knowledge of adaptation measures that can be undertaken over the short-term and long term. Such knowledge of adaptation measures is also scarce.

Keywords: Climate Change, Canada, Agricultural Productivity, Extreme Events, Knowledge Gaps

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.127-148. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 5.685MB).

Prof. Suren Kulshreshtha

Professor, Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

Professor Suren Kulshreshtha has served as a professor at the University of Saskatchewan since 1969 and works in the area of climate change impacts and greenhouse gas modeling from agriculture. Professor Kulshreshtha developed the Canadian Economic and Emissions Model for Agriculture, a model used for policy analysis by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

Dr. Elaine Wheaton

Distinguished Scientist, University of Saskatchewan, Sasktoon, Canada

Professor Wheaton is trained in climatology and geography. She has many refereed articles and book contributions to her credit. Professor Wheaton is a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for substantial contributions to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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