Victoria & Islands branch - Climate Change and the Practice of Agrology

Branch: 
Victoria & Islands

Presented on Sat. Oct. 26, 2019 at the Tigh-Na-Mara in Parksville

Article by Ryan Taylor, A.Ag.

This year, following the AGM in Parksville, the professional development portion of the day consisted of 5 guests speaking discussing climate change, how it is impacting and how it is anticipated to impact the profession of agrology in BC.  Speaker bios

The first speaker was Trevor Murdock, M. Sc., Climate Scientist of the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (https://www.pacificclimate.org/). For the past 20 years he has worked on applications of climate research to assist decision-making and planning. Trevor’s work has focused on climate scenarios and online mapping tools, downscaling to high resolution, analysis of historical climate data and improvement of seasonal climate predictions. Trevor discussed climate change on a global scale and on a regional level and how it affects BC, such as decreased snow packs, increased hot days in the summer months, more frequent and intense wet days. These things affect forests, stream flow, and water supplies, among many other things. His presentation was very interactive with audience participation via texting words and phrases that were projected onto the screen at the front of the room, further engaging the audience to participate.

His message was that climate change at a regional level can be combatted with adaptations and resilience principles and consideration must be given to future projections and engagement across multiple disciplines (scientists, agrologists, government, public etc) to adapt. Preparation for climate change is necessary and possible.

The following speaker was Dr. David Spittlehouse, Ph.D. P.Ag. Research Climatologist, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO).

Regarded as a national leader in the Canadian forest sector, David’s work has guided FLNRO in its mandate to develop policies and programs in an era of climate change, and to make informed decisions supporting forest sustainability. Dr Spittlehouse discussed the need for adaptation to a changing climate in forest natural resource management. Some implications of climate change of the forest sector are changes to permafrost, the decline of yellow cedar, warming winters are not causing die off of pine beetle and so on. He compared bioclimatic zones in BC and how climate change would impact them – shifting bioclimatic forest zones and latitudes “moving” north. He also discussed how a warming earth will reduce growth and increase mortality of forests, due to dry and hot summers, increased fire, insects and disease. Adaptation options presented included societal – changing management of forest, as well as changing public and industry expectations – and biological adaptations – adapting the forest for a changing climate. The biological adaptations were interesting to hear regarding seed transfers and specific forest species selection for shifting bioclimatic zones within the province. Some of the challenges in the forest sector include translating broad concepts into specific actions, personal beliefs and notions, institutional inertia, existing legislation and lack of mandate for change, and uncertainty of timing and degree of climate change affects.

Next up was Wiley Evans, Ph. D., Chemical Oceanographer.

Wiley leads the Hakai Institute’s (https://www.hakai.org/ ) Ocean Acidification Program. His research on ocean chemistry in the North Pacific is integrated with the Hakai Oceanography program and helps monitor British Columbia’s ever-changing oceans. Ocean acidification is the ocean’s response to increasing atmospheric CO2, which is currently higher than ever recorded. This increase is a current and growing threat to life in the oceans. With increased acidification of the ocean, the availability of calcium carbonate lessens which affects shellfish. The pacific northwest shellfish industry is being affected from shell dissolution and this is affecting food systems, both human and marine. There are currently many studies related to ocean acidification including some fisheries in the Georgia Straight such as Fanny Bay oysters.

Anna Stemberger P.Ag. Agriculture Climate Change Analyst, Ministry of Agriculture.

Anna works within the Provincial Adaptations Strategy department to build greater knowledge and awareness regarding regional adaptation strategies for climate change. Some of the topics Anna touched on and how they will affect agrology through climate change impacts included: weather variability, warmer and dryer summers, salt wedge moving further up river (due to both a lower flow of the Fraser River and rising sea level), storm surges, floods, and increased pests and pollinators. Some of the adaptation work and pathways the ministry is working on includes new and hardier crops. Some tools agrologists need to adapt include models, for instance increasing temperatures will expand crops further north and into different regions in BC (such as cherries), but this expansion will also lead to an increase of pressure on water resources. Next steps for the Ministry of Agriculture is to build capacity, identify gaps and barriers and integrate adaptation into professional practice on multiple scales of farming from genetics, best management practices, farm operations, landscape level and regional level adaptation (wildfire mitigation and preparedness and water infrastructure).  

The final speaker on the day was Dr. Robin Cox, Ph.D. Director Resilience by Design (RbD) of the Research Innovation Lab, Royal Roads University (http://resiliencebydesign.com/). The RbD team is committed to applied, participatory research to address the complex and interrelated problems of disasters and climate change. Dr. Cox’s presentation focused on arguing for adaptation by seeding resilience and adaptive capacity within society. The RbD team works to build regional adaptation capacity and expertise and works to grow and spread information via professional development. She argued for changes in the “how” of what we have to do to adapt to climate change including

  • acting with the information we have now regardless because we don’t know the outcomes of adaptations that could and should be implemented now;
  • collaborate within and outside of our professions and with the public;
  • complex thinking – demanding and bringing multiple perspectives to the table within our profession and other sectors;
  • focus on the process and context - shorten feedback loops to advance prototype innovations; and
  • increase incremental adaptations.

Planning for adaptation success is also a key factor in the process, it has to be integrated and flexible, collaborative and transparent, it must be proactive and future oriented, and it must be resilient. Climate Change Adaptation competency framework includes literacy for both clients and stakeholders, strong business cases, clear translation and communication across different disciplines, emotional and political challenges in such changes including equity and justice issues. Strong leadership is required to make adaptation to climate change successful.

Following all the speakers there was only a brief panel discussion, due to time constraints. Adaptation to climate change will cost money, but when compared to human health impacts those adaptations are argued to be free or even negative costs to society. No matter what changes we make now, it will be worth it in the future, regardless.

A final question asked of the panel was “What gives you hope, in a word or phrase?”. While the answers given could have been another discussion unto itself, the words summed up were:

  • Resilience.

  • Innovation.

  • Creativity.

  • Adaptation.

All in all it was a great event with lots of great interaction and conversation.

Date: 
Thursday, November 7, 2019