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Why Adaptation Matters

Agricultural producers are accustomed to weather conditions influencing their activities. Decision-making in the face of weather variation (and a range of other challenges) is a constant element of farming life. However, climate change is anticipated to bring a different scope and scale of change from that previously experienced.

Climate change adaptation is the response (of individuals, groups or governments) to these anticipated changes. Adaptation is intended to strengthen resilience in a way that minimizes risks, reduces vulnerabilities and enables opportunities associated with climate change to be realized.

courtesy Ministry of Agriculture & Lands

courtesy Ministry of Agriculture & Lands

Agriculture is highly vulnerable to changes in climatic conditions and even small shifts could have significant consequences for food production and the livelihoods of farmers.

To formulate effective adaptation strategies, a practical first step is to assess the potential risks and opportunities associated with climate change. A series of reports completed in 2012 outline potential impacts of climate change for BC agriculture.

Impacts on Agriculture

Assessments of the potential impacts of a changing climate on BC agriculture identify both threats and opportunities. Longer term shifts may be more manageable than the unpredictable weather events that are expected to increase in frequency. However, in all cases, identifying possible threats and opportunities as well as realistic and practical adaptation measures will improve the resilience of agricultural production in a changing climate.

Photo by Sandra Tretick, Courtesy Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC

courtesy Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC

The BC Agriculture & Climate Change Adaptation Risk and Opportunity Assessment reports provide a good starting point for understanding impacts for various production systems in specific regions of BC.

The Regional Adaptation Strategies are regional level plans (for the Okanagan, Cowichan, Fraser Valley, Delta, Peace and Cariboo) that delve more deeply into the highest priorities for producers, as well as strategies and actions for adaptation. Some of the overall impacts of climate change for BC agriculture have been identified as follows:

  • More frequent occurrence and severity of summer drought; water shortages in more regions
  • Decreased snowfall in alpine areas leading to reduced snowpack and to water shortages
  • Increased precipitation (frequently through more extreme events) and subsequent vulnerability to flooding, erosion, nutrient loss
  • More frequent and intense “extreme” weather events (wind-storms, forest fires, hail, droughts and floods)
  • Increase in growing degree days (heat units) and a longer frost free season
  • Potential for broader range of viable crops in some regions
  • Increase in pest and disease pressure due to winter survival