The latest report on climate change is a mixed bag for Canadian farmers – longer and warmer growing seasons on the plus side, but negative effects from the more intense weather events, plant and animal stress, disease and insect infestation.

In early February, the first Working Group of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) released its latest assessment on where our climate is at, and where it’s going (see April issue of Better Farming). Two months later, on Good Friday, the IPCC’s second Working Group released the sequel that sought to address the related question, “so what?”

By all indications, the final discussions between lead science experts and government representatives to the Working Group II meeting were complex, poorly facilitated and bogged down by the filibustering of several obstructionist countries – especially China and Saudi Arabia. Finally, after an all-nighter that lasted until 10:30 on the morning of Good Friday, a significantly watered down Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) report emerged.

Many of the science experts involved expressed frustration with both the process and the results, pointing to the marked difference between the results presented in the technical summary that the experts had prepared with that which finally appeared in the working group’s SPM.



Despite such concerns about the accuracy of the SPM, the full IPCC “impacts” report upon which it was based gives some good indications of how a future rise in global temperatures and related changes in weather behaviour might affect us in the decades to come. For Canadian agriculture, not surprisingly, it’s a good news-bad news story.

The good news is that a rise in average temperatures means longer and warmer growing seasons for Canada and other countries located in the colder regions of habitable Earth. Everything else being equal, this suggests higher crop productivity. Added to this is the direct fertilization effect of higher CO2, particularly for C3-type plants. C3 plants such as trees include more than 95 per cent of the plant species on earth. C3 species continue to increase photosynthesis with rising CO2. Plants such as sugar cane and corn known asC4, don’t. Reduced stomata openings under high CO2 conditions also result in lower moisture loss due to evapotranspiration, and hence improved drought tolerance. Read more

Averages and “everything else being equal,” however, are seldom good criteria of how the real world works. There are a number of factors that are likely to offset and perhaps even reverse some of the gains provided by increased growing degree days and the CO2 fertilization effects. Particularly important is the projected increase in extreme weather conditions – more intense rain, longer and more severe droughts, and heat waves. Furthermore, the risks of disease and insect infestation are likely to increase under warmer climates. That’s the bad news.

Chapter 5 of the new Working Group II report, written by a team of experts from 15 different countries, provides some added details of impacts on agricultural systems. They conclude, among other things, that:
Plant stress due to heat waves, moisture deficits or exposure to high surface ozone levels – the latter an increasing problem in eastern North America – may in some regions largely mitigate or offset the direct beneficial effects of CO2 fertilization on crops. Impacts on crop yields are, however, very dependent on when these stresses occur during the crop growth cycle. For example, heat stress during the flowering stage of plants can reduce the size, number and of seeds that they produce, while it would have much less impact during the final maturation stage.

Climate Change

Climate Change

Research results on the combined effects of elevated CO2 concentrations and warmer temperatures suggest increased problems in future decades with weed control, and a significant increase in crop damage from pest herbivores.

Intense precipitation events can cause significant damage to crops and exacerbate soil erosion. Most climate models indicate that the number and intensity of such events will increase under warmer climates. A U.S. study suggests that crop losses there, due to excessive moisture events could double to $3 billion per year by 2030.

Intense weather events may also lower long-term yields by making the timing of field applications more difficult, thus reducing the efficiency of farm inputs.

While more precipitation is expected to fall in the form of extreme events, total summer precipitation in mid-latitudes is expected to decrease.Furthermore, the period of time between precipitation events is expected to become longer. Moisture stress is also added through the enhanced surface evaporation and vegetation evapotranspiration caused by higher temperatures. Hence, there is an enhanced risk of crop damage or loss due to severe drought events. While increased irrigation is one option for adapting to this challenge, competition for water use from other users will also increase.

Climate Changes Effect on Animal

Climate Changes Effect on Animal

Heat stress will also affect the feed intake and productivity of livestock, both on pastures and when confined.

Despite these concerns, the international community generally views Canadian farmers as winners in the climate change sweepstakes – as long as the magnitude and rate of warming remains modest (less than 2-3C). In other words, the pluses are likely to initially more than offset the minuses. Furthermore, Canadian farmers can useexperience, anticipatory knowledge, advanced technologies and disaster relief programs (such as crop insurance) to help adapt to the projected changes, capitalizing on the pluses and mitigating the minuses.

Many others around the world will be less prepared to cope. For example, in low latitude regions – where there are far more people to feed and there is far less margin for survival – warmer temperatures have no benefits and lots of penalties. Drier conditions can turn regions that are already arid into deserts. Water stress in much of the tropics is expected to increase dramatically.

Furthermore, given the poverty that pervades most of these countries, their capacity to adapt is minimal. For them, even a 1C warming is potentially catastrophic.

For students, Spring Break is a fun escape from their college studies. The most popular destinations to celebrate Spring Break are exotic beach destinations. For students, paying for a Spring Break vacation can be a challenge. If you are strapped for cash, there are a number of things you can do to make your Spring Break much more affordable.

Create a Budget: You should create a budget to determine how much you can afford to spend on your vacation. This will include meals, entertainment, travel, and accommodations. Once you determine how much the trip will cost and how much you you can actually afford to spend, you can find ways to reduce your trip costs.

Save Early: Since you know the date of Spring Break, you can start to save well in advance of the trip. You can set aside a certain amount of money each week that will be used to pay for your vacation. As well, if you have saved a lot of cash, you will be less likely to use your credit card which is important because such a high credit card bill along with the high interest rates can put you into serious debt. It is wise to only use a credit card for an emergency.



Travel and Share a Room with Friends: You can drastically cut down on the cost of your trip by sharing travel costs. If you are traveling by vehicle, share travel and accommodation costs with a group of friends. As well, look for a cheap hotel and stay in a room that has a kitchenette. You can then buy and make your own food instead of eating at restaurants. When your out sight seeing or laying on the beach, bring food with you. Because food and accommodations are one of the most expensive parts of the vacation, you can save a lot of money if you find ways to reduce those costs.

Book Flight Early: If you are traveling by airplane, you can save money by booking early because last minute flights tend to be more expensive. Also, search online for special Spring Break deals offered by discount travel sites. You can also sign up for special travel alerts that will notify you by email if a special travel deal is listed.


Stick to your Budget: While you are enjoying Spring Break, it is important to stick to your budget. It may be helpful to create a daily budget and only take that money with you each day so you do not overspend and end up using your credit card.

Spring Break is an exciting and fun time for students. With a little planning and budgeting, you can attend Spring Break and have a fabulous time without going into serious debt. You can relax and enjoy yourself knowing that you will not be ruining your credit history by going into debt. For young people who have future plans of getting a home and a car, it is essential that they maintain a good credit report.