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.
Agriculture is highly vulnerable to changes in climatic conditions. Longer term shifts may be more manageable than the unpredictable weather events that are expected to increase in frequency, but even small shifts could have significant consequences for food production and the livelihoods of farmers.
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 the realization of opportunities associated with climate change.
How to Adapt
To formulate effective adaptation strategies for BC agriculture, a practical first step is to assess the potential impacts of climate change. Identifying both risks and opportunities as well as realistic and practical adaptation measures will improve the resilience of agricultural production in a changing climate.
The Adaptation Risk & Opportunity Assessment reports provide a good starting point for understanding climate impacts on various production systems in specific regions of BC.
The Farm Practices & Climate Change Adaptation research project studied the potential for six on-farm practices to reduce risk or increase resilience in a changing climate.
The Regional Adaptation Strategies are regional-level plans that delve more deeply into the highest priorities for producers and outline strategies and actions for adaptation. These are being developed as part of the Regional Adaptation Program.
Impacts of Climate Change
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 water shortages
- Increased precipitation (frequently through more extreme events) and subsequent vulnerability to flooding, erosion and nutrient loss
- More frequent and intense extreme weather events (windstorms, forest fires, hail, droughts and floods)
- Increase in growing degree days (heat units) and a longer frost free season, leading to a potential for broader range of viable crops in some regions
- Increase in pest and disease pressure due to winter survival