Climate Change and Canada’s Crops & Food Supply

This report lays out key climate change challenges facing crops and food supply and summarizes policy recommendations for adaptation.

Climate change is causing significant, measurable increases in extreme weather events. Slow or “creeping” climate changes alter rainfall, evaporation, runoff, and soil moisture conditions, and increase crop pest populations and plant disease affecting production and yield. These changes will vary by region; for instance, northern regions will see warmer temperatures and longer growth seasons, potentially offering opportunities as well as challenges. Canada’s agri-food sector will require a variety of adaptation and risk reduction strategies, plans and on-the ground approaches if it is to respond efficiently and survive these challenges.

This report, co-authored by former ALR Chair Erik Karlsen, former BC Deputy Minister Dr. Jon O’Riordan (author of ACT’s Biodiversity report), international water expert Bob Sandford (author of ACT’s Water Governance report), and Dr. Lenore Newman, Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Environmental Change at the University of the Fraser Valley, reviews adaptation barriers and vulnerabilities for Canada’s crops and food supply, such as drought and overland flooding, and proposes an agenda for giving focused attention to the roles of government, private insurance and stakeholders to achieve effective and affordable risk reduction, relief and recovery.

The authors reviewed Canada’s and other countries’ leading climate change adaptation and extreme weather risk reduction practices, as well as “triple loop” learning principles and other transformative decision strategies to make agri-food systems more resilient, avoid harmful and costly trade-offs, and use adaptive management approaches. Report recommendations include a transformative, nested set of strategies, action plans and implementation programs, and practices that employ these types of principles.

The findings also include insights into climate impacts on iconic Canadian foods such as salmon, beef, grains, maple syrup, and ice wine, illustrating the urgent need for action to mitigate risks and protect Canada’s food sector.



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