Last Tuesday night, another Green Drinks Montreal Chapter event took place at Thomson House. Bano Mehdi, a PhD candidate in the department of geography, presented a talk titled “Climate Change Impacts on Agriculture in Canada.”
Mehdi addressed the small but attentive crowd and attempted to dispell the common belief that climate change is negative. Instead, she argued that “climate change vis-à-vis agriculture is seen as good.”
Focusing on three main points—how the climate has changed in Canada over the past century, future climate predictions for the country, and the possible impacts of climate change on Canadian agriculture—Mehdi presented statistics that revealed clear evidence of temperature changes, but also possibilities for adaptation.
According to her presentation, there was an overall increase in temperature of 0.9 degrees C across Canada over the past century. The change came with variation, though, and the temperature decreased at times.
Mehdi also said that Canada has had a 12 per cent increase in precipitation over the past eight years.
“Expect Canada to be warmer and wetter with occasional variations,” she said. “This changing climate will be more welcoming to high-value crops, such as grapes, which need specific temperatures at which to grow.”
Along the mid-latitude regions of the northern hemisphere, where Canada is located, there is the most potential for longer planting and harvesting seasons and new crop types. In the coming century, Mehsi said, most of these areas will be able to maintain a climate that will allow for optimal planting and harvesting.
The same cannot be said for mid-latitude southern regions. Only a minority of the world’s climatic regions, Mehdi said, will experience changes in their climates that will give them beneficial conditions.
But even for countries like Canada, the changes in temperature and precipitation have variability and cannot be predicted accurately enough to prevent natural disasters. Mehdi warned that no systems are currently in place to deal with such events, which could destroy crops.
Mehdi argued that it is up to farmers to adapt their methods to the climate. “They must have good soil and a ready water supply,” she said.
She also said that to ensure food security, the government will have to step in to help farmers with these burdens through access to knowledge, technology, and funds.
“The agriculture sector is very adaptable” Mehdi said. “But if not enough attention is paid to these changes, Canada would not be able to keep up and therefore have a very difficult time feeding itself.”
Chris Wrobel, a Master’s student in plant science, is a member of the Post Graduate Students’ Society Environment Committee and a co-founder of Green Drinks Montreal, an informal organization that seeks to promote discussion on environmental issues. He explained that issues like the one addressed in this talk are what Green Drinks tries to promote.
“[The organization aims to] provide a forum for environmentalists with different views,” he said, asserting that “sustainability is a binding force” and that through them common projects amongst many groups can be undertaken.