THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY
OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 9:30 a.m. to study the potential impact of the effects of climate change on the agriculture, agri-food and forestry sectors.
Senator Claudette Tardif (Acting Chair) in the chair.
The Acting Chair: I welcome you to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. My name is Claudette Tardif. I am a senator from Alberta and I will be the acting chair of the committee today.
I would like to begin by asking the senators to introduce themselves, beginning at my left.
Senator Bernard: Wanda Thomas Bernard from Nova Scotia.
Senator Doyle: Norman Doyle, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Gagné: Raymonde Gagné from Manitoba.
The Acting Chair: Today the committee is continuing its study on the potential impact of the effects of climate change on the agriculture, agri-food and forestry sectors. We are very happy to be here in Halifax to hear from Atlantic Canadian government departments and stakeholders involved in the sectors of agriculture, agri-food and forestry.
For our first witnesses today, we welcome Dr. Peter Duinker, Professor and Acting Director, School for Resource and Environment Studies, Dalhousie University, and Dr. James Steenberg, Post-doctoral fellow, School for Resources and Environmental Studies from Dalhousie University. Welcome to both of you. Thank you for accepting our invitation. We will ask you to make your presentation and following that the senators will have questions for you.
Peter Duinker, Professor and Acting Director, School for Resource and Environment Studies, Dalhousie University, as an individual: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. James and I will make our presentations in sequence and then we will field questions together, if that would be acceptable?
The Acting Chair: That would be perfect.
Mr. Duinker: We are doing that partly because it’s convenient, but partly because we are joined at the hip when it comes to forest and climate change. I have been working on this theme of forest and climate change for 30 years and James has been working on the theme for 10 years, and his 10 years have been mostly with me so we have complementary perspectives, but we do see a lot of these issues in rather the same way.
I would like to begin, as I often do at the university, with a box and arrow diagram. If you have my little submission there, on the second page you will see a diagram where I will just very, ever so briefly, lay out how I look at the chain from a changing climate through forests to a wood-product sector.
The arrow from climate change to forests is more or less a one-way arrow. The changing climate brings temperature changes, precipitation changes and wind. In my view, those are the three most important driving forces in the climate that influence our forests.
Then I have a one-way ticket from forests to wood-product sector, and that is that the forests provide that raw material that the wood-product sector needs.
You will see that I have two feedback loops here in the diagram: one from forests back to climate change through greenhouse gases, and the other one from the wood-product sector through greenhouse gases back to climate change. Those two feedbacks are essentially part of the whole mindset of mitigation, trying to slow the change in the climate by the way we manage our forests and the way we manage our wood-product sector so that they, at least the forests, can absorb more carbon than they give off to the atmosphere and the wood-product sector could be using less carbon in its work.
I will speak to mitigation in a moment. But before we leave the figure, the whole concept of adaptation is one where we try to manage the forests and the wood-product sector assuming that the climate will change. We need to figure out a way to make the forests and the wood-product sector more resilient. It is my opinion that most of the effects of climate change on forests will not be desirable changes.
Now I will move to the last page where I have some talking points and just expand a little bit on each one. The first one admits and realizes that climate change is happening already and much more will come. I was listening to the television last night, watching Terry Mercer being interviewed on CBC TV, and the interviewer, Murphy, said, “Well, what about all the naysayers around climate change?” Mercer’s response was, essentially, “Well, I don’t know what planet they are living on.” Climate change is happening and the consensus is very strong.
Underneath that talking point I will mention that in general terms we’re not optimistic about mitigating greenhouse gas emissions sufficient to arrest climate change despite our commitments at Paris and everybody’s hope that by 2050 we could live in a world where the average temperature change was kept to within two degrees. That would be great, but I am not optimistic about that and I think we need to get ourselves ready for a future climate that may be much worse than that.
My second talking point is that climate change is already influencing forests and indeed with an accelerating climate change it will affect the forests much more in the future. That is partly a result of our forests having come to some kind of dynamic equilibrium with a fairly stable climate over the last 1,000 years, or maybe even 2,000 years.
All of the climate scientists recognize that there have been dynamics in the climate over that period, but by and large it’s been a fairly stable situation with respect to the climate, especially in relation to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and secondly with respect to the rate at which greenhouse gas concentrations are rising in the atmosphere, which is far higher in the 20th century and 21st century than in the last many centuries.
So it seems clear to me that the atmosphere will have a lot more heat in it. We register that as rising temperature. There will be disrupted precipitation patterns. Here in Nova Scotia we are not that concerned, as, I would suggest, folks in Western Canada ought to be concerned, about the raw amount of precipitation. In Nova Scotia, we get somewhere between 1,000 millimetres and 1,500 millimetres of precipitation per year and with a changing climate some say that will even be a little bit higher, which is not a bad thing for the forests. But the disruption comes in the amount of snow as opposed to the amount of rain. There will be far less snow and way more rain. Well, that changes the relationship between the forests and the climate.
The second disruption is expected to be fewer rainfall events of larger magnitude. So, bigger rainfall events, but not as many of them and not very many smaller ones to keep the same amount of annual precipitation.
The third major driver will be wind. An atmosphere with more energy and greater heat will be a windier one. If there is one atmospheric driver that foresters in Nova Scotia are concerned about it is wind, because many foresters will say, “Well, we can’t do this civil culture treatment or that civil culture treatment because as soon as we change the profile of a forest stand, many of the trees will just blow over.” In large measure, I agree with them. This is an ongoing challenge in managing the forests of Nova Scotia.
We may see more fires here in the east, but that hasn’t been a big driver of our forest ecosystems. Not nearly as much as insect and disease patterns. We are expecting a large budworm infestation to hit this province coming from Quebec and down through New Brunswick. That is probably not a climate change driven phenomenon because we had big budworm infestations from the 1950s through to the late 1970s anyway. But the expectation is that there will be more windthrow maybe in general terms, as well as with more frequent and stronger hurricanes should they reach our shores. As many of you know, we had a big hurricane here in 2003 and that knocked down what some estimate to have been five times the annual harvest of wood in Nova Scotia.
These factors interact with each other so that if we can more blowdown, we may see bigger fires. We did actually see a bigger fire, two of them, right near the city, both of which destroyed built property: the Porter’s Lake fire and the Spryfield fire. Both those fires burned in blowdown wood from Hurricane Juan.
So, on talking point three, climate change will deeply affect the wood-product sector of the economy because it affects the wood supply. The Mountain Pine beetle is an excellent example. There is strong evidence that climate was a factor, and may continue to be a factor, in the dynamic between the Mountain Pine beetle and the pine forests of Central B.C. and even Alberta.
Hurricane Juan also had its devastating effect by putting so much salvage wood on the market.
My fourth point is, “Can Canadian forests and the wood-product sector sequester and store enough carbon to affect climate change?” Unfortunately not, because climate change is a global phenomenon. It’s not like the carbon dioxide emitted in Nova Scotia influences the climate of Nova Scotia. It doesn’t. Every kilogram of carbon dioxide put in the atmosphere anywhere in the world has the same effect on climate change. But we have to do our share. So, thinking that it is a good thing to have the forests, the wood-product sector, the building sector, and so on, store more carbon is absolutely a good thing.
The fifth point, perhaps, is the most important one, “Can we use our forest management and policy tools to enhance the resilience of our forests and the wood sector?” Absolutely, yes.
So, my sixth point speaks to some of the avenues whereby we might do this. The first one is about soil management. Fortunately, you will hear from a couple of soils experts later in the day so I won’t belabour this point. But we have to guard against soils becoming stressors on the trees and they could become stressors if they don’t have enough nutrients to support a healthy forest growth.
We have concerns in Nova Scotia, for example, that intensive management of softwood plantations may actually represent a mining of some of the nutrients that cannot replenish at the rate they are being taken away. So, we need to be mindful of the nutrient pools in the soils over time.
The second point is promoting diversity, especially all facets of biodiversity. Some would say that we have degraded our forests in Nova Scotia and actually made them more boreal in the sense that they are way more dominated by spruce and fir than they would be naturally. So, the Native Acadian forest has, at a very fine scale, much greater diversity of tree ages and tree species, which is a factor promoting resilience of the forest in the face of climate change.
My third point is to establish carbon credit systems. I’m not exactly sure what those might look like, but pretty much everyone agrees if they think about forest ecosystems that the more carbon we have in the forest ecosystems the better; carbon rich forest ecosystems.
The fourth point is to support community forests and woodland owners. There are about 400,000 woodland owners in Canada; 30,000 here. Half the forest land base is owned by the 30,000 woodland owners, and those woodland owners are not necessarily all keen to generate timber for the market, especially under current market conditions. It’s hard to make a living growing wood and selling it. We know from recent research that the highest concern of many of the woodland owners is the legacy value of their woodland. In what state will they be able to pass the woodlot, or woodland, on to their heirs considering the state of the woodland today?
The fifth point is somehow to encourage a culture shift around climate change adaptive forest management. Because I have been thinking about climate change for 30 years, if I were managing a forest I think the mindset that I would take into making decisions about the forest would be a climate change mindset. I want to raise resilience by all the tools I have and I want to make the forest as resilient as possible to a changing climate.
The final one is diversity of wood products. To me, it’s not very exciting that we participate in the global market for low-end commodities. We need to find ways that we can make more unique things out of the wood we have and maybe then we won’t be price takers. As such small players in the global market, we are nothing but price takers and when pulp and 2x4s don’t command a very good price, we take the price.
I would love to see us move in the direction of products where we are proud to say they were made in Nova Scotia and not just because the trees grew here. I would love to see us start building buildings out of wood instead of steel and concrete. As you look around this city, you will see all kinds of cranes on top of buildings built of concrete and steel. If the UBC example isn’t an excellent one, I don’t what is, where there is an 18-storey residence built largely of wood. What a great way to store carbon and do our bit.
That is where I will end and throw the torch to James.
James Steenberg, Post-doctoral fellow, School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University, as an individual: Thanks very much, Peter.
Thank you all for having me today and giving me a chance to speak. As was mentioned, I am a post-doctoral fellow at the School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University, and I study forest ecology and forest management in both urban and rural settings.
During my undergraduate days, I was also a tree planter for five years in British Columbia and Alberta to help pay for school and during that time my colleagues and I planted 100 per cent Lodgepole pine seedlings exclusively in areas that were being devastated by the Mountain pine beetle, which feed on Lodgepole pine. So, I think in dealing with climate change adaptation and impact in the forest sector in Canada, it’s about planning for the future and developing adaptive management protocols. But is also about coping with past decisions of landowners and forest managers over time, as the forest sector is a slow-changing beast at times.
So, because Peter has given a great overview of forest management and possible impacts and adaptation in the forest sector, I will just add a few additional, supplementary points based on my areas of research and expertise. The first of which in my speaking notes here is how we deal with time and temporal scale in the forest sector regarding impacts and adaptation.
I will give everyone a moment to find the speaking notes, if needed.
As I mentioned, trees live a lot longer than people and our forest management programs need to have that kind of foresight and also hindsight. With regard to temporal scale and forest management planning in Canada, there are two ways we can look at this. I think we need to incorporate both in balance. This is both proactive and retroactive planning.
The first, regarding proactive planning and dealing with the uncertainty and future of climate change, this often involves using scientific tools like simulation models to forecast different scenarios of management for adaptation in different severities of climate change. I would argue that the science here is fairly advanced. There is a lot of investment in this kind of research in Canada, both provincial and federal governments, but also forest products companies.
The second component on dealing with time is retroactively and how do things change over time as we manage the forests? This is where the monitoring comes in. So, long-term monitoring to look at climate change impacts, change in forest conditions and socio-economic conditions in the forest sector and also progress toward Canada’s goals and objectives around sustainable forest management.
One such area that both Peter and I have familiarity with is the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers’ Criteria Indicators Framework for sustainable forest management. This is a collection of six criteria, which are essentially collections of Canadian values around sustainable forest management and 46 indicators associated with the criteria to track progress toward the sustainability values. The last assessment nationally was in 2006, and I think we might consider national level monitoring programs a priority to understand how things are changing so that we can better inform the science of simulation modelling and forecasting.
With regard to monitoring, I think the science is in place. As it is with modelling, it’s often limited by data availability, funding and coordination; Canada being such a large nation as it is.
The second point I would like to address in my speaking notes is regarding cumulative environmental effects and the admonition that the Canadian forest sector alone cannot sufficiently adapt to climate change. It requires coordination across different sectors in resource and environmental management, oil and gas, agriculture, mining. All these areas have cumulative impacts on the environment, which are increasingly recognized as an issue in Canada. Many of these cumulative effects arise from small, environmental impacts that might escape regulatory requirements because of the small size of the potential impacts, but cumulatively can have devastating impacts on the environment. This is the death by 1,000 cuts phenomenon.
Also, with regard to cumulative effects arising from the forest sector interacting with other areas of resource management and their associated environmental effects, climate change brings with it a high degree of uncertainty, as does the interaction of these potential effects from different sectors. They require cross-sector coordination, data and information sharing, and they require the kind of coordination and collaboration that probably will need to span provincial jurisdictions.
My third point is in regard to leveraging new sources of data for climate change adaptation in the forest sector. We live in a highly data-driven world these days, whether it be Google or your smartphones. But the reality is there are lots of interesting factoids and jokes that can be made by big data. But it’s incredibly important for planning sustainability in the forest sector and for adapting to climate change.
The first point on my list here regards investment and innovation and research and development and remote sensing technology to better monitor and to better forecast forest conditions. I think given the high value of this area, and the investment in this area, it will take care of itself. But there are other dimensions of data in climate change adaptation that I think we might consider paying more attention to, such as government open data initiatives and citizen science.
Regarding the former, government open data, this is increasingly a priority of all three levels of government in Canada. But I think we can do better. For instance, forest management in Canada largely occurs on Crown land, being under tenure agreement with forest products companies. These companies are in most provinces legally required to develop forest management plans, to conduct monitoring initiatives, to conduct modelling initiatives. These data could be shared through government open data programs, perhaps as requirements of tenure agreement. The reason why I think this is important is my aforementioned need for cross-sector collaboration making these data available to all potential stakeholders.
And also, the growing importance of things like community forestry or indigenous co-management agreements where there is more smaller scale collaborative governance around sustainable forest management that will benefit from greater availability of data to inform their climate change adaptation into the future.
Such initiatives can also be used for citizen science programs. You know, with regard to data availability, money is always a factor and coordination and scale is always a factor. So, citizen science increasingly can pick up the slack. They just need to be facilitated and they need the tools to do so.
Here in Atlantic Canada there has been a major citizen science initiative in partnership with the Canadian Forest Service in tracking the impending and current outbreak of spruce budworm. So, these types of initiatives can be models for how we might look at multiple scales and multiple approaches to climate change adaptation in the forest sector.
Lastly, I wouldn’t consider myself a scholar worthy of his spurs if I didn’t bring up the urban forest and the importance of urban forestry in Canada, which is increasingly a major focus of my research at Dalhousie and back in Toronto where I did my PhD.
Over 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities. The type of forest management that most Canadians will see is urban forest management and yet urban forestry is very often underfunded or just a reactive level of municipal government that doesn’t have the attention that I think it needs, given the tremendous value of ecosystem services and benefits we get from growing trees in the city, whether it be air pollution removal, reducing urban heat islands, or slowing down storm water to avoid urban floods.
In the 2016 State of the Forest report there was an entire section dedicated to adapting urban forests to climate change and yet I see it is absent in the most recent 2017 report. I think that we need to ingratiate urban forestry as a priority in provincial and federal governments in the role of supporting and funding initiatives with Canadian municipalities. A lot of cities are increasingly developing sustainable urban forestry programs and plans. We have an Urban Forest Master Plan here in Halifax that both Peter and I have had a hand in and are increasingly looking to its implementation. But most communities don’t have such a plan or program in place. They lack the funds to do so or even the capacity, and where there are some in place, they lack coordination across communities, across cities and towns.
Environmental impacts from climate change. We see the increasing abundance of invasive species, like the Emerald ash borer. It is wreaking havoc across Ontario into Quebec. We are looking out our back door to see it potentially showing up in Atlantic Canada. This requires regional and interprovincial coordination to deal with adaptation and sustainable management. We can certainly expect increasing abundance and impacts of invasive forest pests as we look to a future of the climate change.
More often than not, I think, in my experience, I see cities looking to their urban forests as green infrastructure to support the adaptation of cities to climate change. This is of critical importance without question, but we need to make sure that we are adapting urban forest ecosystems to climate change as well, or they won’t be able to deliver on the front of green infrastructure.
With that, I have covered all my speaking points, and I thank you kindly for giving me a chance to speak here.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much to both of you.
We’ll begin our period of questioning with Senator Doyle.
Senator Doyle: Thank you. Really good presentation.
I was looking through your talking points and you ask, “Can forest management and policy enhance forest resilience?” And, of course, you say yes, and you go on to number six. You mention diversity of wood products, which seems to indicate, of course, that we’re not building enough with wood today. I am wondering could there ever be a point reached where we put too much pressure on our forests and build a little bit too much with wood?
We had the forest products people in about a week or so ago in Ottawa and they talked about making amendments to the National Building Code. Right now, I think, you can build wood structures about six floors tall under the National Building Code. I think they were looking for eight and eventually 10 and 12. Is there any concern about that? I mean, could we reach a point where our forests are really probably under a little bit too much pressure? How resilient can we be, I wonder, in keeping our forests going if we’re continually asking people to go from concrete and steel and aluminum to wood exclusively? Do you have any concerns about that?
Mr. Duinker: No.
Senator Doyle: No? That’s simple enough.
Mr. Duinker: For a simple answer, I think the changes to the building code have much to do with timber frame construction and the building at UBC was built with composite wood materials. So, the structure is actually massive beams that have come from wood that was chipped and glued together into custom pillars and so on. So, changes to the building code for taller buildings out of wood frame I have no concern about because I don’t know about building integrity. But I would like to see us move towards the prospect of building much taller buildings with wood as the main structural components and not relying on concrete and steel.
I have heard some people speculate that if the Twin Towers had been built of wood they wouldn’t have come down with planes crashing into them, because wood has such a different characteristic. Wood, in large pieces, is not really flammable like wood in frame construction. So, my old house in Halifax, if it caught on fire, the house is gone. But big pieces of wood don’t burn well. They char on the outside and the rest of it doesn’t burn.
But let me to get to the side of whether building more with wood would put more pressure on the forests.
Senator Doyle: Yes.
Mr. Duinker: Canada’s wood-product sector is an export-driven sector. We ship way more of our forest products out of the country than we consume in the country. So, I think we can control the pressure on the woods by not changing our total cut levels to satisfy the domestic economy, but rather shifting from export economy to domestic economy.
Senator Doyle: Right, less export.
Mr. Duinker: Yes, less export and more consumption at home. It costs less from a greenhouse gas perspective to use the material at home than it does to ship to Florida on a truck or overseas in a container, all of which has to be powered by fossil fuels. So, instead of importing steel to Nova Scotia to build buildings, building them out of wood that was grown in Nova Scotia would, I think, be a very favourable thing.
The pressure on the woods is rather interesting. On the Crown forests of Canada, we have strong controls on harvest rates. Companies aren’t allowed to make timber harvests until government has approved the harvest levels. I know there are lots of controversies over how those harvest levels get set, particularly in B.C. where there is a Chief Forester whose job it is to negotiate the harvest levels on Crown forests. But I would be more concerned about the private forests because they are totally unregulated with respect to timber harvest levels and they are generally following the whims of the market. So, when prices are good there can be quite a heavy harvest level and when the industry is not doing so well they can go down.
But consider this, in about the year 2000 we were harvesting 7 million cubic metres of wood a year in Nova Scotia. Ten years later we were harvesting 3 million. Why? Because the market fell out of the bottom. In the year 2005, let’s say, we were harvesting 180 million cubic metres roughly speaking in Canada and five years later we were harvesting 120 million cubic metres. So, in my opinion, the forests are not being pushed too hard, especially the regulated Crown forests.
Senator Doyle: Right.
Mr. Duinker: The woodlots come and go depending on how the market is fluctuating.
The final point on this would be: I wish we could find a way to grow a forest we’re proud of and make things out of the wood that are determined by what wood we have, not by what mill technology we have.
For example, I remember when I lived in Thunder Bay, Abitibi-Price was planting black spruce, no matter what they cut. They cut all kinds of trees, but they only wanted to plant black spruce. I said, “Why are you always planting black spruce?” And they said, “Well, we make newsprint, and black spruce is the best wood. So, we want our future forests to be black spruce.” Two years after that conversation the mill shut down.
We cannot predict what kind of forest products we will want in the year 2050 or 2060.
Senator Doyle: No.
Mr. Duinker: So why are we creating forests that service our current understanding of forest products when forests take that long to develop from scratch? I would like to see us switch it around, build the forests that are the most resilient we can possibly imagine to climate change and whatever wood we get, let’s be smart enough to make good things from that wood.
Senator Doyle: Just to switch over to climate change -- I agree totally with Senator Mercer's comments -- can we easily adapt here in Atlantic Canada, and maybe more easily than other parts of Canada, to climate change? Could climate change produce any great opportunities in Atlantic Canada for a different kind of farm, for instance, a different kind of crop production? Are there any positives associated with climate change insofar as farming and that kind of thing is concerned? Have the new technologies made it possible to diversify, for instance, our agricultural base notwithstanding climate change? I mean, is that too simplistic or is it possible?
Mr. Duinker: I think it is possible. The advantage most elements of the crop-producing sector has over forest management is the rapid turnover of crop. So, for most crops it is an annual possibility to change crops. In the woods, probably 30 years or 40 years is the shortest it could possibly be. So, while I do have an agriculture degree and have been a farmer, I think I would much sooner leave those questions to the chaps who will follow us to talk to you about agriculture.
But if I imagine the temperature profile of southwestern Ontario and the rainfall profile of Nova Scotia coming together, and let’s imagine that that happens, then we may be able to shift our production of agricultural crops in such a way that we diversify the crops and get more per-unit time.
I remember some cropping systems, when I was a student at Guelph back in the 1970s, in which farmers were getting three crops per year off a field.
Senator Doyle: Really? Three crops a year?
Mr. Duinker: Three, yes.
Senator Doyle: Wow.
Mr. Duinker: They would get an early hay crop. Then they planted the corn and then they would do something else after that when they got the corn crop off. In some rotation they would be getting three. We don’t. We get one. So, if we keep our rainfall profile and we get a warmer temperature, maybe we can move from one to two, which will be, not so much a change in the way we do things in the agriculture sector, but an increase in productivity simply because it’s warmer.
Senator Doyle: What kind of a temperature variation is a dangerous temperature variation? To your knowledge has our temperature increased anything over the last ten years? Can we say if we have gone up a degree it’s a dangerous place to be in? What kind of temperature variations are not good? Is that answerable?
Mr. Duinker: I’m really out of my league here. But I would have to call Kalin Mitchell at CBC and get his advice on this. But what we shouldn’t do is take the global mean temperature rise and imagine that that is what will happen in Nova Scotia, because it won’t. The global mean is a number that is kind of a fiction really. At any one place in the globe nobody feels that; everybody feels what the weather brings in their particular area.
Senator Doyle: Right.
Mr. Duinker: So, we could see an average July temperature rise of a few degrees Celsius and maybe in 2080, or up to 2100, and maybe a winter rise of something like something five degrees Celsius in the middle of the winter. Those are pretty serious temperature increases compared to what we have gotten used to over the last few decades.
Senator Doyle: Right.
Mr. Duinker: There are some critical variables to watch for. One would be the number of days over 30 degrees Celsius. That is often used as a trigger point for heat stress on people and on plants. So, if you take the temperature profile over the summer from spring to fall, which has a rise in the average temperature, and then it comes down and you shift that up and you look at the 30-degree mark, if we double the number of days that it is over 30 degrees, then we start to get concerned, especially if rainfall doesn’t accompany the hot weather. Then we will see wilted corn and we’ll see apple crops that we are not proud of, that kind of thing.
One thing I can say with some confidence is that our wine industry is looking good in Nova Scotia.
Senator Doyle: Now could some of that be attributed to climate change?
Mr. Duinker: Absolutely.
Senator Doyle: There is a positive there. I know when I was a kid growing up we never grew corn in Newfoundland. Now I see corn being grown everywhere in Newfoundland. It wasn’t a crop that we went for. It was the potato or the root crops more. But some people look and say, “Well, that’s one of the positive impacts probably of climate change. Our season is extended a little bit more than what it was before.” Anyway, good. Thank you.
Mr. Steenberg: I might add to that as well. A lot of the literature, and I will again stick to my comfort zone of the forest zone, but it could apply to some degree to the agricultural sector, is that with increasing temperature and also increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, you can have increases in productivity without question. But it’s the balance between those slow increases with the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events. So, a slight increase in productivity over the years in corn crops could be completely erased for a decade by a really severe weather event.
Senator Doyle: Right.
Mr. Steenberg: If you are looking at changes in climate and picturing the bell curve with the average right in the centre of the curve, those averages are slowly shifting. But the really important part is those infrequent events at the tail end of the curve that are becoming more frequent -- record breaking fires in B.C., or increasingly beating our hot weather records in the summer. A one-degree or half-degree increase in average summer temperatures could be entirely outweighed by just one freeze/thaw event on the shoulder season, which can drastically affect forest productivity as well.
Senator Doyle: Right. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Senator Bernard, please.
Senator Bernard: Thank you both for your presentations this morning. As a recent Dalhousie retiree, I would say this is a Dal proud moment. Your school is very well known for the work that you’ve done.
I am wondering if you could elaborate for us a bit around how you work directly or indirectly with government and NGOs. Is your research having a direct impact in terms of policy development and so on?
Mr. Duinker: The degree to which that happens is entirely professor dependent. So, professors behave as very independent agents when it comes to what their research agenda is and how they choose to implement that agenda. Our school is a small one with six professors and a cadre of graduate students and a few shining, bright young people as post-docs.
Senator Bernard: Yes.
Mr. Duinker: I would say that among the six of us there are a couple of us who are deeply embedded with the clients of our research. I would say all six of us do this to some degree, but some are much more deeply embedded than others. I believe that the way to make change, if you’re a knowledge producer as a researcher, is to embed yourself into the affairs of the people who need the new knowledge.
The best example I have, the most recent example, is the work that we do with Halifax Regional Municipality on the Urban Forest Master Plan. In 2010 the Urban Forester said, “Peter, I need you badly to help me build an Urban Forest Master Plan.” So, three of us, two folks with the city and myself, led a large team mostly of graduate students, including James at the time, over a two-year period to build the Urban Forest Master Plan. So, our fingerprints are all over that plan.
Then the guys from the city said to me, “Now we need you in the implementation part of this. We need you to provide research and monitoring services associated with implementation of this plan.” Implementation started in 2013 and we are now five years in and every year I have taken a research contract at Dalhousie from the city to provide the city with services. With the money in the contract I hire students to help over the summer time measuring trees, doing public engagement exercises and so on.
That is just one example of probably many I could recount where the individuals in our school are not only really applied in the work we do, but we like to engage very directly with the clients, many of whom are actually coming to us asking for help. It is not as if we generate all the questions we like to investigate. We take questions from the people who have the problems and work with them.
Senator Bernard: That is a wonderful example. Thank you for sharing that.
The Acting Chair: Senator Gagné.
Senator Gagné: Professor Steenberg, you mentioned that there are challenges to getting funds for research and I was wondering, over and above supporting the academic sector, where does the country need to invest in order to support forestry research and innovation?
Mr. Steenberg: Well, I could certainly fill several hours with a response to that. In my opinion, I think the real investment needs to come in better ways to share information and data and make that information and sharing publicly available. With regard to the science that is being done, often publicly funded science, unfortunately often times there are only two people who have read the article that has been published in that science, which is “Blind Reviewer Number 1” and “Blind Reviewer Number 2.”
So I think we have a tremendous amount of underutilized science. It is about, now, making things more available to the public and committing ourselves to that as scientists and also as government and practitioners.
So, what I mentioned earlier with regard to more collaborative governance and the need to communicate across sectors and across jurisdictions to deal with environmental impacts; I think that we need to fund the research on those environmental impacts, without question, but also look to some of the social sciences and some of those other disciplines with regard how do we successfully collaborate in the governance of these problems across boundaries?
Mr. Duinker: I can’t help myself. I would love to say a thing or two about this. The university community of researchers on forests and climate change and related issues is highly fragmented. The Canadian Forest Service, on the other hand, which is our large federal agency, is not so fragmented, but in my opinion dramatically underfunded and maybe a little disconnected from the Forest Managers of Canada.
In 1994, the Canadian research community managed to capture what is called “Network of Centres of Excellence,” on sustainable forest management, centred out of the University of Alberta. For 15 years it was glory days for forest research up until 2009, when the program ran its entire course. What it meant for me as a participant was 15 years of very strong connection with the industry, the provincial governments and the university community across Canada. It was a very good time. Then the bottom fell out of the forest product sector. In 2008-09, it was unable to keep the research money flowing and so we’ve gone kind of backwards to a rather fragmented cadre of researchers doing whatever the researchers feel they would like to do.
In relative terms, there are small initiatives to come back to national networks and a new one has just been funded by NSERC. I’m one of the players in that network and it’s called, “ForWater,” meaning forest water. It is an initiative to see if we can’t use forests in watersheds that supply domestic water to pre-treat the water so that it costs less in chemicals and electricity and so on in the water treatment plants.
We have five nodes across Canada where major initiatives are taking place in this network and I’m proud to say that one of them is right here. We will be studying both Lake Major and Pockwock to see if we can’t manage those woodlands differently because there is an issue around colour in the water. It’s browning. The treatment people don’t want to spend the money on chemicals to remove that colour. As you can imagine, the citizenry doesn’t want brown water in its potable supply.
So we feel that network is nicely funded, but it is nowhere near the glory days of the SFM network that we had.
I’m not sure what the mechanism would be to bring back kind of a nationally coordinated, well-structured research network on forests and their sustainability. But I think it would be really helpful in doing what I think is necessary on the climate change front to build resilient forests. There are a lot of uncertainties around doing that and we need the university research committee to be rallied around that theme.
Senator Gagné: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: I’ll just ask a quick question. It is related to your talking point number 5, where you say that we need to encourage a culture shift around climate change adaptation. Do you feel that there is a resistance at this moment to making those changes and, if so, what can be done to encourage this culture shift?
Mr. Duinker: As I said when I began my presentation, I’ve been associated with the theme of climate change in forests for 30 years and at the beginning, in the late 1980s, early 1900s, I felt very alone because people were just only hearing about climate change and not really thinking much about what it all means.
About 15 years ago this province was probably responding a bit to my constant plugging, “Get climate change on your agenda.” So, they hired a young lady to do kind of a thought paper on climate change in forests. She wrote this paper and everybody said, “Yeah, nice paper,” and then they put it away.
So climate change in this province has not been on the forest managers’ agenda at all. But I was in a research planning meeting here in Halifax, at another hotel, just last week and I was so pleased that everybody in the room was agreeing that climate change now looms as the biggest threat to forest biodiversity and other elements of the woods that we can imagine over the 21st century.
The culture shift is coming, especially with climate change becoming more main stream. Where we need it to permeate, I think, is the 30,000 woodlot owners who might want to think a little bit more about this. Reaching a majority of them is really difficult. We have some woodlot owner organizations, which probably account for 10 per cent to 20 per cent of those owners. All the rest are vehemently independent people who don’t want anybody telling them what to do or trying to educate them about this or that or another thing.
Can we accelerate the culture shift? I suppose we could if the Department of Natural Resources would embrace it and admit that it really is the big driving factor. Start talking about it every time the future of our forests is a conversation item and bring up the notion of climate change.
The Acting Chair: In fact, we did have a presentation by woodlot owners yesterday and one of the groups that presented to us was woodlot owners from New Brunswick. They did say they would benefit from education and training on those matters. So I think there is an opportunity there. It’s a matter of getting the different people together to work on a particular issue and, as you say, cross collaboration across sectors.
For a quick round, we have about five minutes left. Senator Bernard and then Senator Gagné.
Senator Bernard: I better be quick then.
I believe that Hurricane Juan was certainly a wake-up call here in Nova Scotia. I lived through that. Then you made the link in your presentation to Hurricane Juan and the Porter’s Lake fires. I live next door to Porter’s Lake. You didn’t mention White Juan. Did White Juan factor into that as well?
Mr. Duinker: I don’t think so. But I don’t remember anybody talking about the effects of White Juan on the rural forests of Nova Scotia. What I do remember is being stuck in my home for a week that February of 2004, or March, or whatever it was, and having the power out, yet again. I think a lot of trees might have suffered a bit of damage from the weight of snow on them, but it wasn’t like Hurricane Juan blowing the trees down and killing them. There may have been some effects, but what looms large in our memory is the hurricane, not the big snowfall.
Senator Bernard: If I could ask one more question and because we don’t have time, perhaps you could respond by sending something to us? You talked about the need to support community forests and woodland owners. I missed yesterday, but hearing that connection I would be interested in knowing how those folks could be better supported and if they are asking for more education. If there is a bit of disconnect, what is the role of the university in helping to bridge the gap there? If there are some research ideas or programming planning ideas that would be helpful. Thank you.
Mr. Duinker: I know you don’t want an answer, but I just wanted to point out that we have one formal community forest in Nova Scotia. On Friday, I will be at a meeting of that community forest and I will ask this very question there, you having prompted it here.
Senator Bernard: I look forward to hearing the response.
The Acting Chair: If there is any further information, you can certainly send it to our clerk. That would be most appreciated.
The Acting Chair: Senator Gagné.
Senator Gagné: What I’ve heard is that we have to create a future forest based on our knowledge of climate change. We have to stimulate local solutions. So how do we go about designing good public policy for this region in Canada that will reduce the impact of climate change on forest management and agriculture?
Mr. Duinker: Like James, I would like to have several hours with you to discuss that because you have opened up a big discussion.
I have been involved in monitoring forest policy developments in this province since I arrived here in 1998, and I have witnessed processes that I thought were incredibly strong on policy development and processes that I thought were incredibly weak. The one that I would point to that I think was perhaps the strongest was a negotiation based process to figure out how to complete the protected areas network in this province. The discussions were brokered by an organization that is now mothballed, one of Canada’s model forests, the Nova Forest Alliance. I was the chair of the Nova Forest Alliance for part of the process called, “The Colin Stewart Forest Forum.” It was a highly deliberative, very negotiation-based process to get the environmental groups and the big industries in the forest product sector to come to agreement on how to get to 13 per cent protected areas, and it worked because last year the government was able to say, “We reached 13 per cent.”
The process that didn’t work well, in my opinion, was the Nova Scotia Natural Resources Strategy Process; a very different kind of process. A strategy was put in place in 2011. There is lots of consternation about that strategy. Things are not going well around the implementation of that strategy. In fact, forest practices in this province are so contentious that the province only just weeks ago announced yet another independent review of forest practices to be led by Bill Lahey, who is the President of Kings College.
So, when I look at process for policy development, I have my ideas on what kinds of processes seem to work and which ones don’t and we keep implementing too many of the kind that I think don’t. I’ll have to leave it there, given the time.
The Acting Chair: We finished right on time. But if there is something that you would like to share with us that you feel has not been addressed, there are still a few minutes if you would like.
Mr. Steenberg: I feel that we have addressed all of our most important points. But I guess I will end on the urban forest note, because it’s something I have been focusing on a lot recently and I think we have this strong situation of public policy development and the implementation of an urban forest master plan here in Halifax. I don’t think considering developing an approach here needs to be so mutually exclusive in urban versus rural.
If you look to Halifax Regional Municipality, there are lots, in fact, the majority by land of parts of HRM that I would say are very rural. So, this involves dealing with approaches to public policy and climate change adaptation that are very mixed in terms of tools that might be used or we might want to balance traditional forest management and approaches adaptation there and the integration with a lot more community led collaborative approaches that become increasingly important when you move towards urban centres, where so much of that management is in the hands of civil society as well as municipal government. I will just hammer again the point on the need for provincial and national coordination around that factor.
The Acting Chair: On behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, I would like to thank you for sharing your expertise and your experience and for kindly answering our questions. We could have gone on for much longer, as you can see. Your recommendations and what you have shared with us today are very relevant and they will certainly become an important part of our report.
We are now pleased to receive Dr. David Burton, Professor, Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University; Dr. Lord Abbey, Assistant Professor, Amenity Horticulture, Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University; and Dr. Samuel Asiedu, Professor, Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University. This is “Dalhousie Day,” but we are in Nova Scotia, so that is great.
I would like the witnesses to make their presentations. We will begin with Dr. Burton and then the senators will follow up with questions.
Please feel free to begin, Dr. Burton.
David Burton, Professor, Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, as an individual: I would like to thank you for this opportunity to appear before you. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I am a soil scientist and I have held the Chair in Climate Change at the then Nova Scotia Agricultural College, now Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture. I have had the honour of serving on numerous national panels on this issue and was one of the co-authors of the options report for the agriculture table, as part of the National Climate Change Process in 2001. I have been researching this area for over two decades. I have a history in this issue. These are my introductory comments. They are not contained on the article I have circulated. I will come to that in a moment.
This committee also has a history in this issue. I want to highlight this wonderful publication, Soil at Risk, which in 1984 was a product of this committee and was one of the first efforts to really highlight efforts in soil conservation, and it resulted in a lot of very positive changes in our agricultural system. A review of that document reveals that while many things were addressed in 1984, many things that are highlighted in here have yet to be addressed.
Similarly, I was honoured to present in front of this committee in 2003. I have included a copy of that submission today, and if you review it, you will find that many of the issues I highlighted then still remain. That is the theme I want to leave with you in my brief today. I will begin my brief.
Climate change presents both opportunities and threats for agriculture in Atlantic Canada. The opportunities include a longer growing season that will permit the growth of a wider diversity of crops, for example the emergence of the grape industry in Nova Scotia. The threats include the impact of more frequent and more extreme climatic events that will challenge our infrastructure and the economic stability of agriculture.
Agriculture manages the natural world and climate defines that work place. Weather has always been the topic of concern of the agricultural producer. Climate change will challenge our ability to manage weather and sustain our agricultural production systems.
In my brief, I will focus on the implications of extreme events and the role of soil management on building a resilient agricultural system. I do this in part because it’s my belief that addressing issues of soil management is crucial to sustaining our agricultural production systems, but also because I believe soils provide a unique opportunity to simultaneously address issues of the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as adapting to climate change.
I will focus on three issues: building soil resiliency; improving nutrient stewardship; and the importance of local carbon and nutrient management.
Resiliency: To be able to adapt to the extremes of our changing climate we need to build resiliency in our production systems. Resiliency is the ability of a system to withstand change. In terms of agriculture, that resiliency is established in our choice of cropping systems, the ability of our soils to resist degradation, and our economic support programs to allow producers to withstand economic stresses of weather and climate.
One of the most crucial aspects of the resiliency of the soil is its organic matter content. Organic matter is the cement that binds soil particles, builds the soil's structure that allows it to hold air, water, provides a habitat for soil life and is the source of energy and nutrients for the organisms living in the soil and the plants growing on the soil.
Historically agriculture has had a negative impact on soil organic matter. Its content has decreased by as much as 50 per cent as a result of cultivation. Our tillage systems, short rotations, and annual cropping systems degrade soil organic matter. In Atlantic Canada, soil organic matter levels are at a critical level. This is resulting in reduced fertility, poor soil structure, increased erodibility, lower water holding capacity and increased soil compaction. The diminished soil organic matter content in Atlantic Canada has resulted in greater vulnerability to extreme climatic events and in greater reliance on fertilizer and nitrogen inputs, resulting in a greater potential for greenhouse gas emissions.
Cropping systems that increase soil organic matter result in greater storage of carbon, carbon sequestration, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing the ability of the cropping system to withstand the extremes of climate change. This is as a result of improved soil structure.
Some of the cropping practices which can lead to increased soil organic matter include keeping the soil covered and keeping a crop always growing on the soil. This crop releases nutrients to the soil, releases carbon exudates, that are food for microbial populations, slows water runoff, and sustains aggregate stability.
Another important practice is eliminating or reducing tillage. Tillage disrupts soil aggregates and enhances the degradation of soil organic matter. Reducing the frequency or intensity of tillage reduces the rate of decline in soil organic matter.
Another one is the return of organic matter to the soil. Soil organic matter contents can be increased by practices that return residues to soil, whether those residues be crop residues, animal manures, sewage by-products, or organic products from industrial processes such as compost and urban wastes.
We need to monitor the organic matter status of our land and resources and incent practices that build soil organic matter. Recently introduced carbon trading schemes in Canada have the potential to be a part of the solution. Building soil organic matter takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, but more importantly it builds more resilient soils able to resist the extremes of climate change.
The next topic I want to address is nutrient stewardship. Increasing the nutrient use efficiency in agriculture is of agronomic and environmental importance. The fertilizer industry has shown leadership in their development of the “4R Nutrient Stewardship” approach. This approach focuses on the selection of the right product, applied at the right time, in the right place, at the right rate.
Recent development of new sensors and the ability to deal with high amounts of data and capture and process large amounts of data offer new opportunities to develop site-specific solutions for nutrient management. This is of particular concern for nitrogen because nitrous oxide is a very potent greenhouse gas and results in 50 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to agriculture in Canada.
The way in which we can control nitrous oxide emissions, and that is one of the major focuses of my research over the last couple of decades, is through control of the amount of nitrate that accumulates in soil. Providing nitrate to support plant nitrogen requirements while limiting nitrate accumulation in soil requires an understanding and quantification of soil nitrogen mineralization. The balance between mineralization and immobilization is also related to carbon status of the soil.
The use of 4R fertilizer management practices to reduce nitrous oxide emissions requires that the “right rate” be applied. We have been working on technologies that will allow us to test our soils to actually determine the right rate of nitrogen in Atlantic Canada. In Atlantic Canada, we don’t currently have a soil nitrogen test. Our approach, diagrammed in the paper that I have provided, involves three different approaches: a test to actually measure the nitrogen status of the soil; a mineralization function that represents the effect of climate in moderating that nitrogen supply; and finally, a measure of nitrate availability that assesses how well we have done in synchronizing plant nitrogen demand and nitrogen supply.
These tools well position us now to take advantage of the kinds of new opportunities and tools that will allow us to determine the right rate of fertilizer and nitrogen and reduce N2O emissions from agriculture in Atlantic Canada.
One of the challenges in this situation, however, is that the reduction in N2O emissions is currently of no economic value to the producer. So the adoption of these sometimes timely and costly solutions is not economically encouraged. Programs and policies like the Nitrous Oxide Emissions Reduction Protocol create tradeable carbon credits from the reduction in nitrous oxide emissions and provide an economic incentive to encourage the adoption of these kinds of nitrogen conservative practices that are so important to both reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the efficiency of nitrogen use in agriculture, which is of economic importance.
Another major concern in Atlantic Canada is reducing the nitrate concentration in the fall. The majority of nitrogen losses occur from fall to spring -- not during the growing season but during the non-growing season. We must find practices that limit the amount of nitrate that is accumulating in the soil in the fall. These practices include the use of the right rate of nitrogen fertilizer to meet plant nitrogen demands, as previously mentioned, but also involve processes like using cover and catch crops planted in the fall to continue to immobilize nutrients beyond the period of harvest of the cash crop and also the inclusion of more complex rotations in our rotational systems that involve things like forages and other perennial crops that do not leave the soil bare.
Again, these practices do not currently result in economic returns to the producer and, therefore, their adoption is limited.
The final topic that I want to briefly touch on is local carbon and nutrient management. Global markets have favoured the commodification of agriculture -- a focus on the product that is exported from the farm. This focus has resulted in the replacement of traditional nutrient cycles in production systems to linear nutrient flows often over broad geographic regions; in fact, globally.
While the markets favour the transport of commodities and the nutrients they contain, the return of waste products of the consumption of those commodities and the nutrients they contain is not economic. There is a disconnect there. This results in global imbalances in nutrient flows. The local food movement has emphasized the value of local food production on the quality of food products and the stability of our local economies. The concept should also be extended to carbon and nutrient flows.
The local integration of energy and nutrient flows into agricultural production systems and watershed perspectives on nutrient use have the potential to enhance nutrient conservation, reduce environmental impact of agriculture, and improve the quality of our soil resource. The type of integrative practices that I am referring to are things like the use of regional carbon and nutrient waste streams by utilizing them in local food production systems. Things like food waste, forestry waste, sewage, animal manure are all wastes that can be utilized on agricultural land and build soil organic matter and also add nutrients to the soil. We must, of course, ensure that these waste sources are safe. But they can be made safe.
Regional integration of animal and crop production systems. We have disconnected animal production from crop production and that has caused huge nutrient imbalances across the globe. We can reconnect those sorts of systems in local agriculture.
Diversification of our cropping systems: Again, greater inclusion of things like perennials and forages in our system will help.
These sorts of initiatives are difficult to realize in an output, commodity-based approach to the valuation of agricultural production. The recognition of the value of local environmental goods and services that these approaches provide is critical. The advent of “green” branding of agriculture and carbon trading policies provide an opportunity to reflect the value of these integrated systems. It is important that local and regional carbon and nutrient flows be considered as we develop these policies to ensure that the efficiencies of “place” are not lost.
The focus of this subcommittee is climate change. The issues I raise are directly related to both the factors driving climate change -- greenhouse gas emissions -- as well as our ability to respond to the impacts of a changing climate. Developing resilient cropping systems that cycle nutrients efficiently and sustain themselves is critical to enduring the impacts of climate and producing food, fibre and fuel.
Over the past decade the science of climate change and its implications for agricultural have advanced. We better understand how to reduce agriculture's carbon foot print, the risks and opportunities that a changing climate presents and the resiliency that is needed to build that into our system.
This has done little to change how agriculture is actually practised in this country, however. The transfer of our understanding on climate change to practices which can be applied, adapted and adopted by producers requires that they become economic and that policies support their adoption.
In Canada, federal and provincial governments have gotten out of the business of resource monitoring and agricultural extension. These activities are now led by industry. Industry responds primarily to economic signals of the current market. There is a need for academics and government to provide leadership in developing, assessing and communicating the sorts of practices that, while not the most profitable at the moment, will ensure more sustainable agricultural production systems in the future, delivering both commodities for consumption as well as environmental goods and services to the local community. This also includes a role for governments in the measurement and reporting of the state of the natural resources upon which agriculture depends and by that, I mean air, water and soil.
Thank you for your time.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much, Dr. Burton. Thank you, as well, for referring to the important work that Senator Sparrow did on soil management and soil issues.
We will continue with Dr. Abbey, please.
Lord Abbey, Assistant Professor, Amenity Horticulture, Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, as an individual: Good morning Madam Chair, distinguished senators and fellow presenters.
My name is Lord Abbey. I am an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. I work mostly on horticulture of plants, looking at production systems and I also do a bit of work on food security and also how we can benefit from climate change. So, I do a little bit of work on them. I will touch on some of these.
I would like to express my appreciation for the opportunity to be in this noble house to share with you my thoughts on the potential impact of the effects of climate change on agriculture, agri-food and forestry.
I believe the world is a perfect place but for human interference with natural processes. With little interference, these natural processes would have constantly modified the earth's climate in a cyclical and harmonious manner. But we don’t do that.
Increases in emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have been implicated in regional and global climate change, and these have been linked to human activities. We hear, see and experience these changes. Yet there are unbelievers who have very good reasons to, and there are some who are indifferent.
Natural causes: Some of these unbelievers believe that this climate change is a natural course and that the earth has its current capacity. So, when it reaches its current capacity it will reverse back and that is what some people think. Some also think it’s the “end times.” It is the second coming of Christ. So, you know, we should be prepared for the judgment day. Some also think it is just a hoax and that scientists and politicians are up to something that we don’t understand. At the same time, there are many who believe that climate change is real and urgent attention is needed.
The best option, in my opinion, is to have discussion in order to clear the doubt, and tackle the problem in unison.
According to the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, “The planet is committed to warming over the next 50 years regardless of any political intervention,” and we know that atmospheric carbon dioxide is rising. By 2040 it might reach nearly 500 ppm.
Agriculture and climate change seems to be in a perfect vicious relationship because agriculture contributes to climate change. So, for instance, over exploitation of natural resources, reduction in forest ecosystem, reduction in ecosystem services, et cetera, result in climate change increases in agriculture vulnerability and vice versa. These lead to significant impact on agriculture, agri-food and forest sectors. Examples are increased wildfires, that we now see, reduced forest size and change in the forest ecology which has significant impact on the global climate.
There is also land degradation, erosion, salinization, soil structure changes and the changes in soil natural fertility depletion. Again, this affects agriculture.
We also see changes in precipitation patterns. So, we see flooding. We see drought. We see changes in all the frost dates, and this also has significant impact on agriculture because agriculture is the largest user of water.
It is also stated that 47 per cent of the global population could be living under severe water stress by 2050, due to these impacts. There is also a decline of crop productivity. We are seeing this; therefore, this forces us to increase frequency and rate of synthetic fertilizer applications. We also have increased use of pesticide, herbicide application and water usage for irrigation.
Crop damage is severe nowadays; therefore, we have resorted to so many different practices, unorthodox practices and that is affecting the environment further.
We also see a significant loss of biodiversity, with possible extinction of species.
Adverse effects on farming systems, food and nutrition security: This is very rampant inside and outside Canada.
Increased number of people at risk of hunger in northern and remote communities and vulnerable urban dwellers: This is also a serious issue in Canada and abroad. Therefore, there are interventions that we could implement to help out. The first of them is identifying the vulnerabilities and opportunities.
Soil characteristics will be very important. So, what type of soil do we have and what can we do with these soils? What are the opportunities?
Fresh water availability, and also climatic system because Canada is a large country: All these parameters differ from region to region.
Also, capacity development, controlled environment production, for instance. I am talking about greenhouses. Probably that could be an easy way too.
Crop diversification: Because the climate is changing we need this. It is an opportunity. We need to take advantage of that probably.
Biotechnology and breeding, exploitation of wild and underutilized plants: This also needs to be done to take advantage of the situation.
We also can explore alternative food systems.
Another one is reduction in uncertainties. So education, creating awareness, especially of unbelievers and those who are not interested in the topic or what is going on. We can also have agroforestry systems and also, again, crop diversification.
Also, identification and implementation of appropriate policies: Here I applaud the carbon tax. It is a good system, but favourable trade policies will also be very important because without that, people who are farmers and growers, they tend to overexploit the system because they need to make money.
Also, the involvement of small-scale farmers is very crucial. Most times we tend to forget about them and we think about the large-scale growers. I think the small-scale farmers are very important in our food system and it needs to be considered as well. Organic production systems also need concentration. It is also important to have public and private interest in research and development to cover small-scale growers.
Also, modification of food production systems in northern and remote communities: This needs to be considered.
Incentives for composters and compost users: As my colleague said, the soil is very important. Improving the soil’s natural fertility is very, very important. Aerobic composting does not contribute to carbon dioxide or any of the greenhouse gas emissions. What it does is that it sequesters carbon. Aerobic composting eliminates nitrous oxide and methane and helps to sequester carbon, as I have said already. So, composters and compost users need to be given incentives. They need to be encouraged. Most of my research work is geared towards compost utilization, improving compost utilization and trying to diversify the use of compost and improve it even more. We are looking at long-term application of compost and its implication to the soil, carbon sequestration, and what it does to environmental pollution, et cetera.
In summary, climate change is real and conditions are worsening with grave repercussions. The geographic location of Canada and its size means the impact of climate change on agriculture will vary across the country. Already vulnerable regions will be at higher risk. If you are talking about northern parts of Canada and remote communities, they will be at higher risk.
With the continuous increase in immigrant populations, it will be in Canada's favour to diversify its food system. So, growing warm climate crops would reduce importation. We already import a lot. So why don’t we take advantage of this?
There is a need for government and private sector partnership to help find a lasting solution to this.
Small-scale growers, composters and compost users again should be motivated. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much, Dr. Abbey.
Dr. Asiedu, please.
Samuel K. Asiedu, Professor, Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, as an individual: Good morning, honourable chair and members of the Senate committee. I am pleased to appear before you. My name is Samuel Asiedu.
This is a very important study because there are so many unanswered questions. Recently the American Society for Horticultural Science held a meeting in Hawaii, on September 19-22. There was a presentation that outlined the numerous publications and books that are denying climate change. The speaker was pleading with us as horticulturists to look into the education component of this so that we can help mitigate the situation.
Global warming is a reality. There are numerous studies showing that Canada is warming up in the next 50 years. The average Canadian temperature warmed up by about 1.6 degrees Celsius, using 1961-1990 as the base. The further modelling indicates that an additional 2.5 degrees Celsius to 3.7 degrees Celsius will be occurring by 2050. That is scary. So this will change and will impact the agriculture and agri-food sectors.
Potential impacts include the warmer temperatures leading to increased precipitation. We have already seen bits of this with flooding occurring in places that surprise us. It’s a reality. Changing in seasons, this is slow. It will be slow for us, but it will happen and warmer growth conditions will occur. So we have to think about crops that can benefit from this as well. I will touch on that as I go on.
Droughts and low water tables can also contribute to moisture stress and we have seen production systems, sometimes irrigation groundwater, draining groundwater and wells drying out. This is because we don’t really have a very efficient system of using water. I was surprised to see on one of my trips to China where they are growing potatoes in large fields, but they are using drip irrigation to make sure that the water gets to where the crop will maximize its use. We still use a sprinkler system and we are throwing water all over the place. Then we complain that our wells are drying out. So, the higher the temperature, the more water will be needed to grow the crop and this will deplete our waters and we have to be aware of that.
There is also the possibility of increasing carbon dioxide. As we all are aware, carbon dioxide is a big source for photosynthesis and about 99 per cent of all forms of plant life undergo this process. So, if there is increase and you have the right crops, we can get a balance there reasonably well.
Some of the biophysical impacts include the effects on crops. I take again potatoes as an example. A very demanding crop, but if it is too hot you are not able to produce the crop that you get today, because the optimum temperature for production is between 15 degrees Celsius and 25 degrees Celsius. Outside of that, we are going to see decline in production and this will be coupled with increasing pests, diseases and weeds, which will demand more input into the system. So, we have to be aware of this as we go through this study.
Also, I must say additional carbon dioxide that will be produced by plants will improve the yield in biomass production. As a result of that, we have to think about more efficient use of water, because the more photosynthesis that occurs, the more water is needed by the plant to fulfill this important function. So the demand for water will be very high and we have to take note of that.
Food production is projected to gain from a warmer climate, but we also have to be aware of the regional effects. Dr. Abbey just alluded to that so I won’t dwell too much on that point. But regional differences will occur and we have to be aware of that. Some cool-loving crops, like cabbage and potatoes, will suffer in from these changes and we will suffer reductions in yield and quality, or both. That means our agriculture economy will be affected drastically.
Potential adaptation types: Again, climate change gives us the opportunity to look at new technologies. We see seasonal changes and changes in planting dates. How do we respond to this? There has to be a whole education on that.
Different plant species and varieties: This is happening, but as far as I am concerned, it’s not happening at a fast rate. You know, we are looking for plant breeders. There is a shortage. Many have retired and have not been replaced and this is a big concern. We are strong in molecular biology and molecular applications, but when it comes to the actual breeding of crops to mitigate the changes that we are seeing, we don’t have enough people on the ground to perform this function. So it is important to talk about it now.
I did mention water and irrigation systems. Again, we are not using water efficiently at all. We have to work our way through that.
Recently there has been talk about protected environments, which means greenhouse productions. Greenhouse productions are becoming very important because it allows us to intensify our production and maximize the use of inputs as opposed to the general use of materials that we spread everywhere.
The last point I would like to make is climate-smart agriculture. We talk about good agricultural practices, which means that we have to select the right varieties. We have to make sure that the time of planting is correct. We have to make sure that we are providing nutrients in a timely manner. We have to make sure that you are harvesting properly. We have to make sure that we are storing our crops properly and in this case, we are working toward sustainable productivity and resilience in the system.
We also have to think about ecosystems approach at the landscape level, and I’m seeing a lot more urban gardens, where they are growing many different crops on a small piece of land. There are some interactions there that people who are growing these are not aware. It’s amazing how in Timberlea here, we are able to grow some of the tropical vegetables like the white eggplant and we get yields higher than where it is produced in large quantities. But we are managing the system in such a way that we look at interactions between different crops and how they respond to nutrient levels in the soil.
We also need to invest in data and knowledge gaps, because there is a big gap. I was searching for data to present. You get all kinds of data, but it is all scattered. So, is there a possibility to bring this knowledge together so it can be shared and utilized freely by those who need to use it?
Research and development, conservation practices and introduction of new varieties and breeds. There is a need to have consistency between agriculture, food security and climate change policies. I think, again, we are working toward the policies but we don’t have concrete policies that will be easily adopted by the industry sector, and so that has to be taken into consideration. I’m not expecting policy, but I would like to know where we are going along those lines as well.
Our role is to provide the education needed. I teach a number of production courses. I do talk about climate change and its impact on food quality that is desired in the marketplace and how people should think about the future and not now.
At this point, I would like to say thank you.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much for very interesting presentations.
The first question will be asked by Senator Doyle, followed by Senator Oh.
Senator Doyle: Thank you for your presentations; very interesting indeed.
Dr. Burton, you spoke in your presentation about the importance of the reconnection between animal production and crop production.
In our committee, we have quite a number of people who come before us from time to time and they talk about the environmental work that is being done in feeding and manure management systems. Very often they will say to us, “Look, if feeding and manure management is done effectively and efficiently, then GHG emissions are bound to go down.”
Is poor manure and feeding management a significant contributor in your opinion to GHG emissions? Is that something that this committee should be giving more thought to in the overall problems associated with greenhouse gas and that kind of thing? Is that important?
Mr. Burton: Yes, on a couple of different levels. I think methane is the other major greenhouse gas coming from agriculture and the burping of methane from ruminants is a major source. I still think there are really interesting advances being made in developing feeding strategies that reduce that methane emission, but it is still significant. So I think that is an area of progress.
I think you’re right. You hear lots of presentations that say, “Here is how we can minimize the greenhouse gas emissions from manure.” But it tends to still be the consideration of manure as a waste product and I really think we have to transition to the point where we think of manure as a resource. So, we shouldn’t be saying, “Where can we stick this material?” It’s, “How can we distribute this material evenly so it achieves its greatest benefit when applied to soil?” That is the change that I am talking about.
Senator Doyle: To what extent have farmers in Atlantic Canada, or Canada as a whole, been using lower GHG emission techniques and technologies in their daily operations? Have you read any studies to indicate that this is an important part of the farmer’s day, to look at these types of techniques and technologies that can be used?
Mr. Burton: We’re fortunate in Atlantic Canada in that our agriculture is still fairly diverse. Now many of our producers are dairy producers that have significant land base to effectively and efficiently use the manure. We don’t have some of the intensity issues that, for example, Manitoba has in terms of the concentration of the pork industry in a few counties or where we haven’t effectively spread that resource out, such that we generate a problem rather than solve a problem.
Also, on your second question, “Is there research?” Yes, we’re fortunate in that we have people on faculty here, Dr. Alan Fredeen, who over the last decade or so has been trying to look at the relative merits of grass fed production systems versus total mixed ration or concentrated feeding sources. His results are somewhat mixed. While there may be more methane emissions in the pasture as a result of some of the grass feeding systems, that’s offset by reduced emissions in the production of the cropping system. So, in the total mixed ration system, the animals are emitting less methane, but the corn that is needed to feed them produces more nitrous oxide in the field.
One of the things that I will be talking to you a little bit about tomorrow is the focus on whole systems. Not just the cow, not just the crop, but that whole system and the integration of that whole system.
Senator Doyle: Has the nature and the scope of agriculture in Canada, in Atlantic Canada in particular, changed at all in recent years?
Speaking of the farmers, are farmers today thinking environmentally? Are they about contributing to a cleaner planet or are they thinking really about all of these changes and what it does to the bottom line? The bottom line is very important. It’s about making a good living and making a profit and reinvesting in your land again. But are farmers in sync? Are they thinking environmentally about what the future holds; GHG emissions; climate change and so many other different things?
Mr. Burton: They spend most of their days on the farm. They do it for the love of managing the land. So I think that is where their hearts are.
The challenge is their head has to meet with the banker every year and so they need a way of being able to pay for that. The last part of my presentation was suggesting we have to bring the mechanisms by which those environmental goods and services, that broad scale benefit of agriculture, can result in an economic return that can be shown to the banker and thereby allow the producer to afford to do the kinds of practices that he knows he or she should be doing. I think that is good to realize.
Mr. Abbey: To add to that, as I mentioned in my talk, small-scale growers are very important and they should be considered. We have an increasing number of small-scale growers. Young ones, especially when you go to the urban areas of Ontario and Manitoba and other places, even Halifax. They are adopting practices that would reduce GHG. For instance, they are using compost, so organic production using proper cropping. They are adopting sustainable systems that we always talk about that can potentially reduce GHG. So we are seeing an increasing amount of them.
The Acting Chair: Senator Oh, please.
Senator Oh: Thank you, panel, for your presentations of this interesting subject. All of you agree that climate change is here.
The impact of climate change will affect our complete ecosystem? So, that means there will be insects, disease that is coming our way. Canada has a marked landmass area from Atlantic to Pacific Coast. How are you looking at how the food supply change will be affected? We have a big population to fit on the planet. How will it affect not just Canada, because other countries might be getting ever warmer and Canada is heating up. So new things will be coming our way. Are scientists alarmed by this and looking at how we have to prepare for these strong impacts coming in?
Mr. Abbey: I think it is very interesting and this is, as I say, a serious situation, and it is being considered by the scientific or the research community. There is a lot of research going on to try to see if we can adopt some type of crops, like warm season crops, because we know the situation around global warming and, as we said, the situation varies across the country.
There is quite a lot of research going on to test for some different types of tropical crops that would be able to survive here. Some are prone to local diseases and pest situations. As, Dr. Asiedu mentioned, we don’t have many breeders to do this kind of work. But a lot of work on crop diversification is going on.
An example is Vineland in Ontario, where they are doing amazing work trying to introduce new varieties of seed potatoes. They’re working on okra, they’re working on eggplant, they’re working on so many crops.
In my own research situation, Dr. Asiedu and I, we are also working on tropical crops. We’re trying to see if we can introduce tropical ethnic crops to Nova Scotia. We have research ongoing and we are having good results. Some crops are doing well and some crops are not doing well. There has been work going on in this area.
Mr. Asiedu: I always say that I love potatoes. I usually want to talk a bit about the potato industry because that is where I started my career, Prince Edward Island. We see opportunities in potato production. Again, if we are managing the crop so that we can put the water on at the right stage of development, we maximize the yield and that will take care of the shortages that will come with water depletion.
We are also looking at rotation crops. Rotation for many is not long enough. In P.E.I. there is not enough land base to do four or five years of rotation. But, there is a policy that if you’re growing a particular class of seed you have to do mandatory rotation, three years at least, minimum. That breaks disease cycle. Some of the rotation crops like radishes tend to even fumigate the soil. So, you are working still with the ecosystem using different cropping systems to mitigate some of these issues.
We are looking at all this, but still there are not enough teams to be able to package an ecosystems approach that would be more efficient and effective.
Mr. Burton: Maybe just one comment. I do think we have to realize that as a country we have been blessed with a disproportionate share of natural resources. We have incredible land. We have incredible water. I think that calls upon us to show stewardship and responsibility in managing those resources. Yes, I think there will be greater pressure on us to not only to grow greater food, but also accept more people into our country and become more part of the global community. I think that will challenge our resources more. All the more reason why I think we need to make sure that we have robust and resilient systems that will sustain this greater demand.
The Acting Chair: Senator Gagné.
Senator Gagné: Research is obviously a very good method to assess and realize policy. How do we go about designing policy in order to maximize win/win solutions across different levels of government? I think this is key to implementing best practices and to also ensure that we reduce the knowledge and information gap between what you are producing as researchers and the information that the farmers are accessing to ensure that they put in place best practices to manage their soil and their crops, et cetera.
Mr. Burton: I think part of the challenge is we all like to live in our little “safe place.” So, as researchers we like to do our research, publish our papers, get tenure and be happy. Policymakers like to make policy and don’t want to necessarily have to read any of those papers and producers don’t necessarily want to have to listen.
I think we need systems where it causes us to come out of those safe spaces and find a forum where we actually can integrate. We need to speak to more economists, sociologists, dieticians, and medical doctors so we can reach out to that broader societal need.
It is just our current systems don’t necessarily encourage that. They make it very difficult to walk that path in terms of getting research funding, finding forums where you can do that and having the products of those kind of activities recognized and valorized. That is the challenge. We have to find ways in which we actually encourage interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary kinds of exchanges.
Senator Gagné: So it’s not really being done in Canada, having those forums?
Mr. Burton: I wouldn’t say it’s not being done. It’s being done. I’m just not sure we’re carrying it all the way through to the actual producer. One of the examples I used in my presentation is the fact that governments have gotten out of the extension business. Now there is not really a societal responsibility to talk to producers and that is something we need to revisit and rethink. I think that was an important role for government.
Mr. Asiedu: Many years ago, when I started my career, there was a time when the extension people, researchers, and industry people got together at a place called Memramcook, near Moncton, in New Brunswick. When they put us together we were able to really look at the issues and come up with ideas that would guide policy makers, give them some direction. We have lost this because there is no extension service any more, particularly in Atlantic Canada. I am hoping that this type of opportunity will open up to give industry, government, academicians and researchers the opportunity to come together to look at what is going on and create a room for policy decision making.
Mr. Burton: If I can add, something that came out of this effort was the establishment of Soil and Crop Improvement Associations in every province across Canada. Those were robust opportunities for us to engage with producers and exchange information. Those have almost all ceased operating or are operating in a very marginal way because they are not supported centrally.
Similarly, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada used to support something called, CARC, the Canadian Agricultural Research Council. Again, it was a clearing house that tried to bring the academics, the policy people, identify the major issues of the industry and put those out to a broader community. We seem to have abandoned those kinds of communication opportunities, as Sam has suggested.
The Acting Chair: Senator Bernard, please.
Senator Bernard: Thank you all for your presentations this morning. I would believe this is another Dal proud moment, so I thank you. I appreciate the research you’re doing and look forward to visiting you tomorrow.
The question I will ask is actually tied to the comments around small-scale growers and food security. Is there a link between developing those small-scale growers and addressing issues of food security, or really food insecurity is what we are talking about?
I am also interested in the tropical crops and wondering if you are connecting with communities in terms of that research and development.
Mr. Abbey: I will start with your second question first.
Yes, with the ethnic crop research our industry partner is the African Community Investment Cooperative of Canada, ACICC. We are industry partners. This group has a group of people from Africa and the Mediterranean who are interested in growing ethnic crops here. These are immigrants. We are working with them and the last two weeks they came by the field to see what we are growing, and we talked to them about how to grow some of these things. They have assessed some of the crops. We had an amazing outing two weeks ago, which is great. So, we are connected with them.
To your first question, yes, food security has a very strong link with our small-scale growers. They have something to do with improving food security. Let’s look outside Canada, for instance. Outside Canada, most of the food that people eat comes from small-scale farmers, not from large-scale farmers. The vegetables, the staples and all that is coming from small-scale farmers. So, they are very crucial partners when we are talking about improving food security and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations recognizes that. In fact, there is a whole kind of presentation and talks going on about how to improve especially among women, because they are very much involved in the production, processing and selling of these crops.
The situation is quite similar here. Now, if you go to urban areas you can see that we have problems with food security with even urban dwellers, Toronto, and all that. The number of small-scale growers is growing because we talk about community gardens. We talk about CSA, Community Shared Agriculture, this is there. We are talking about allocation of small plots for people to grow their own food. So, that group of people is expanding. Why? Because they want to improve their food security and it is being promoted by development and not-for-profit organizations that I am involved in, community development and all that. It is helping.
When I came to Canada in 2007, I was working with Desktop Community Food Centre in downtown Toronto. I helped them to build and set up a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse. This is year-round production. I had 40 volunteers from the community. I had people from the First Nation communities as volunteers. But they just don’t come there to volunteer. They came there to grow the food and take home some of whatever we had. We had a kitchen there and all that. I had people with autism. I had people coming from Africa and people from Latin America. We also had community gardens. So, these are small-scale things, but it has a big impact on people. It helps create relationships and strong links and it works.
Senator Bernard: Thank you.
Mr. Asiedu: I will add a voice to this. I do a lot of training in post-harvest handling of fruits and vegetables and the last training I did was predominantly with new entrants to farming. This is small-scale. They are growing for the farmer’s market. So, it is happening.
For instance, I went to Digby area to do the training and they said, “Gee, this is the first time somebody has gathered us together to tell us about how to produce, how to handle and how to store the fresh produce.” So, we are doing this, and I think we need to do more of it. We need to do more of it.
I live in Truro, but I also live in Halifax, and I do visit people and the backyard gardens and what they produce is amazing. They produce enough and share amongst the people and it is always nice to hear that, “Oh, go and thank Sam,” because I raised some seedlings and stuff like that and distributed them to them. So small scale, but effective.
So, we would like to do more. We need the opportunity to do more of that. To bring the small producers into situations where they can make a little bit of money, at least to pay some bills.
Mr. Burton: I would like to voice a little bit of a note of caution though, because I think one of the challenges of small-scale production is that sometimes it is not an environmentally benign process. Some of the kinds of environmental measures we need to sustain the resource, to protect our water, require a certain degree of scale and technological understanding. So, often if we look at some of our smaller-scale systems, they have a fairly significant environmental impact simply because the people can’t afford the tools or they don’t have the knowledge to utilize them.
I mean, if we are going to feed the world, it requires a certain degree of productivity and efficiency that I am not sure is currently effectively expressed to the small-scale. I think it could be and I think that is a challenge to us to do that. But I wouldn’t want to see small-scale heralded as the champion of the way forward to feed 9 billion people. That might be a little bit of a tall order.
One of the things I was trying to emphasize is a little bit of the local scale. That could have a variety of scales, from small to larger scales, but focusing on local nutrient and energy cycles.
The Acting Chair: Thank you.
We will go on to a quick round of second questions. We will begin with Senator Doyle, please.
Senator Doyle: Dr. Burton, I think you mentioned initially that Canada, or Atlantic Canada, doesn’t have the ability to test for nitrogen. Why would that be?
Mr. Burton: It relates to our humid climate. In Western Canada, they go in the fall and measure soil nitrate. Because they have limited rainfall and a fairly cold winter period, that nitrate is likely to be there in the spring and so that test is valuable.
In Atlantic Canada, we have a much more open winter so we have extensive leaching through our soil profile. So, that nitrate is going to be leached to groundwater or lost to the atmosphere through denitrification. So, measuring it in the fall is not useful.
In the spring, it’s a bit of a timing thing. It makes it very impractical. What we are trying to do with our soil test is not simply measure the inorganic nitrogen or nitrate content of the soil, as they do in Western Canada. We want to better reflect the biological nitrogen production potential. So, what will become available during the growing season? Because that is the most valuable number to predict.
Senator Doyle: Historically, do we have a lack of nitrogen in our soils today?
Mr. Burton: Yes. We have relative low organic matters even pedogenically and originally. But also, they have declined even further. One of the challenges for Atlantic Canada is our soils are quite infertile. They are not nearly as fertile as Ontario and Quebec, and certainly not as fertile as Western Canada.
Senator Doyle: Are there steps that can be taken to change that?
Mr. Burton: Build organic matter. I want a t-shirt, “Build your organic matter.”
Senator Doyle: What about the fertilizers and that kind of thing that you see on the store shelves? Is all that beneficial?
Mr. Burton: Used properly, they are essential.
Senator Doyle: I sometimes wonder what the correct amount is in nitrogen and generally it’s the first number on the bag, I think.
Mr. Burton: Yes.
Senator Doyle: But you wonder if you go to a high content of nitrogen that it’s bad for the soil in your particular area. I can’t see what would prevent an official nitrogen test being available to your particular town or community, or agricultural store, or something being available to do that for you.
Mr. Burton: That is what we are actually working on, but we have to demonstrate that it works. There is this general concept in the producer community that we jokingly say, “Some is good, more is better.” Nitrogen, in particular, is often considered as insurance and people say, “This coming year it is going to be that year where we are going to have the great yields and I don’t want to miss out. So, I’m going to make sure. I’m going to fertilize for that really good year.” The problem is that that good year never comes.
Senator Doyle: Yes.
Mr. Burton: So, we are always adding that additional 10 per cent or 20 per cent of insurance fertilizer because we’re optimists. We just need better tools that will allow the producer to understand and manage the risk of reducing that so they understand that they are better optimizing their system. They feel like they can manage that risk of reducing the nitrogen and perhaps forego a little bit of that maximum yield, but over the long run, being more profitable.
Mr. Abbey: What can reduce the amount of nitrogen application is adding compost? We shouldn’t forget about compost. Compost can also add organic matter and nutrients, so it’s a supplement.
Senator Doyle: Thank you.
Mr. Asiedu: I will add to the voice here. We are also interested in the cropping systems. If the temperature is increasing we have crops that can build very heavy biomass in a short time. Sorghum is one of them, and millet. This can be incorporated to bring the organic matter up and that will help the situation.
The Acting Chair: Senator Oh, please.
Senator Oh: Panel, I have a small question for the three of you. You know the current government has spent a lot of money on climate change internationally. Do you think this money would be better spent on better research by you guys in Canada, rather than spending it elsewhere on the international stage?
Mr. Abbey: That is a highly political question. Well, in my opinion, it’s good in a way because climate change is so integrated. It’s not like it is localized or a Canadian problem, so that if we solve the problem here, we are done or whatever.
You try to solve the problem here. There are massive problems somewhere else. You have problems. There could be refugees coming in and you have famine and all that. So, I think it is a good idea to try to help out, especially in developing countries or underdeveloped countries to also try to pick up the pieces and try to do the right thing. At the same time, we also need research here because whatever research we do we can transfer the knowledge or technology to the outside too. So, it’s kind of a dicey situation.
Mr. Asiedu: Canada needs a presence in other countries and if we are not there, we are missing the boat. When I was preparing to come to this meeting, I was surprised to see a document on climate change prepared for Ghana that was sponsored by USDA.
So, we can bring this to them, because if we don’t and the climate changes and they are not producing enough food and there is famine, it will be like we had to do for Ethiopia. We cannot afford to do that. We have to be there and also identify their needs and priorities and work with them and then bring them on board so it works. I think it is good to spend some of the money outside.
Mr. Burton: I think we’re extremely fortunate and that is the cost of being part of the global community. I think it is incumbent upon us to reach out to those communities and help them because the impacts of climate change are far more severe there than they are here.
Senator Gagné: This question is for Professor Asiedu, pertaining to water management. You did briefly talk about the importance of managing our water. We know that if you increase photosynthesis you store more carbon in plants and forests. But you need more water. How do you balance all of this?
Mr. Asiedu: Some of the crops we do understand. Again, I will use potato as an example. We know that this crop requires about 25 millimetres of water a week. If we depend on rainfall, it may come in one day and then nothing in the remaining days. So, an efficient way of doing this is applying amounts also at a time when the crop can use most of the water, especially at the tuber bulking stage.
This is something that I have been trying to impart to many farmers, but it’s difficult because we don’t have a system of making sure that the crop does not go stressed, because if you miss this by a day or two the crop will be stressed and stuff like that.
We don’t have good weather forecasting systems. Again, this is something that we should be looking into and that way we can supply the amount of water that is needed at the right time. Also, a lot of production systems use drip irrigation which allows the water to flow to the roots, and it doesn’t evaporate. Again, technology and how we can help our farmers to own these systems so that they can do the right things?
Mr. Burton: Maybe I can add. I think it is also important to emphasize that water retention on the landscape is also one of the environmental services that agriculture could perform.
One of the challenges they have in the Red River Valley is the fact that they have been so effective at draining land, both in North Dakota and Manitoba, that water runs down the river so rapidly that it generates floods. We are having some of those issues in Atlantic Canada. I think to call upon agriculture to store more of that seasonal water on the landscape is an important service that we can provide to the larger community.
Senator Gagné: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Dr. Burton, you indicated that there is a lack of economic return for producers and some of the practices weren’t being adopted because there was no incentive for them to adopt those practices because of the lack of economic returns. We haven’t mentioned it, although I think it was alluded to. How do you see the different carbon pricing mechanisms? Does it affect your sectors? Will this be an economic incentive or a disincentive?
Mr. Burton: It depends on how it is done. The devil is in the details. Let me first say I am not an expert in carbon pricing or carbon trading. It is well beyond me. But I do think there needs to be messages that go directly to the producers that they can count on, that can incent particular activities. Those messages have to be clear and they have to be dependable.
The one example I used was the Nitrous Oxide Emissions Reduction Protocol. That’s a protocol that is being adopted in Alberta. It was developed by the Province of Alberta initially but is being considered more nationally. What it tries to do is, in a very simple fashion, identify the kinds of practices that could be used to create that credit and document that credit.
If the process of documenting and accruing the credit is so complicated, involves so much paperwork, and has so many levels of verification, it no longer has value to the producer. It has to be simple and it has to be transparent and it has to be accessible.
Having said that, I think those kinds of incentives are critical. I think it’s the right kind of policy because what we’re trying to do is incent the kinds of behaviours we want rather than simply bail people out when something bad has happened. So, then we are using that same money not to incent positive behaviours but actually in some cases to excuse poor behaviours. So, I think we have to have a very progressive approach into how we generate those kinds of carbon trading policies.
I would also say green labelling. We are starting to see the green labelling of products. How will we do that so it actually incents positive activities rather than it simply being a new way for the food production system to gain revenue?
Mr. Asiedu: I think there is also a need for consumer education. Consumer education is very important because if we are not talking at the same level, then consumers may want unfair prices for producers and that does not go very well.
The Acting Chair: To all three of you, thanks very much for your excellent presentations. On behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, thank you for taking the time. I thank you most sincerely for sharing your expertise and experience with the committee, and we look forward to visiting the Faculty of Agriculture tomorrow at Dalhousie University.
We now have the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Gabriela Sabau, Associate Professor Economics/Environmental Studies, Higher Education at the Grenfell Campus at Memorial University of Newfoundland; and from Don Jardine, Project Manager, Climate Research Lab, University of Prince Edward Island.
Welcome to both of you. We are so pleased that you accepted our invitation to appear before the committee. We will begin with Dr. Sabau, and once both presentations have been made, the senators will be asking questions.
Gabriela Sabau, Associate Professor, Economics/Environmental Studies, Higher Education, Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, as an individual: Thank you so much for inviting me. You have received my presentation so you know where I’m going with this. I want to start with another definition of “sustainable development” as opposed to the one that everyone knows: We need to develop in a way that is going to preserve opportunities in the long-term to live well now and in the future. This is very important because the current economic growth idea is actually destroying the environment and is producing increased levels of inequality.
I think at this point in order to transition to sustainable development we need to transition to a low carbon economy in Canada. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for Canada. We know that Canada is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gas in the world. Our total emissions were 732 megatonnes. I’m sorry for the mistake here, the typo with metric tonnes. It’s actually megatonnes of CO2 equivalent and this brings us to one of the highest per capita emissions in the world of 20.1 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. So, this is much higher than the average 12.5 tonnes per capita of the top 17 OECD countries.
Now I say that this transition provides at least two opportunities for Canada. I think we can actually bring technical and social innovation in defining a low carbon development path for our country by reorienting our energy sector towards renewable energies; by integrating ecosystem considerations in land-use strategies and smart urban planning; and, by developing a diverse ecologically integrated agriculture which offers both Canadians and the world green healthy food.
The second opportunity is that we can invest in Canada’s rich biotic natural assets in sustainable socio-economic processes and this can be translated into supporting sustainable fisheries, forestry and agriculture practices which offer opportunity not only to limit greenhouse gas emissions but also, where possible, to enhance carbon sequestration, protect biological diversity and our water quality.
In order to do this, we need to let go of three long held myths concerning our economic development and embrace a new systemic vision; a vision that places Canada within an ecosystem which is really rich in biodiversity, and we should value that as part of our heritage and both protect it and use it for our development.
The first myth I think is that food is an industrial product and we can transport it globally and waste it at will. And I just want you to look at the figures for our exports of food and our imports of food because Canada is the fifth-largest exporter of agriculture and agri-food products after some huge exporters like European Union, the U.S.A., Brazil and China. In 2013 we exported $46 billion representing approximately half of the value of our primary agriculture production, either as primary commodities or processed food and beverage products.
We export three commodities, basically, which make up this huge amount: oil and oil products, grains like wheat -- we are huge exporters of wheat -- and the third one would be animals and meat. So, this is what we export and we specialize in producing on huge farms. We import most of the food and vegetables that we eat. This is an imbalance because we should be feeding our people fruit and vegetables produced here, not in New Zealand and South Africa.
We imported $34.3 billion in 2013, making us the sixth-largest importer of agriculture and agri-foods. At the same time, in Canada, 6 billion kilograms of food are lost or wasted at the household and retail levels, which represents almost 30 per cent of our food supply. It is not only wrong to waste that food, but also it produces waste and it produces greenhouse gases. So, a figure I have here is that food waste is costing Canadians $31 billion every year and has a terrible impact on the environment. For instance, in 2014 waste was responsible for 29 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is huge.
At the same time, 4 million Canadians, including 1.1 million children, experienced food insecurity, with high rates among indigenous populations and in parts of Northern Canada. So I think we should give up the idea that food is just a commodity. We should be looking at food as being a nutritious substance which actually sustains life, generates energy and provides growth, maintenance and health of the body. And if we look at food this way it’s going to become a strategic asset, the food we produce and the ability to feed our people first.
I have some figures here about the Province of Ontario. If only the Province of Ontario replaced 10 per cent of its top imported fruits and vegetables with locally grown produce, it would lead to a $250,000,000 in GDP and creation of 3,400 new jobs. A reduction in transportation costs would be an added environmental benefit. There are no studies to measure the health benefits of such a move but we should be looking into that.
The second myth is that only large scale conventional agriculture can bring prosperity. Three of these commodities are actually being produced on larger and larger farms. As an economist, I agree that larger farms are producing economies of scale, and we should be aiming to have economies of scale, but not at the cost of feeding our people the right things. I don’t think we should be just producing for export, but producing for local markets. We should be producing food on smaller scale farms.
In Canada, we used to have many small-scale farms. Farming was a family business, but now farms are becoming larger and larger and are organized more like corporations. Large-scale farms are not good because they produce a lot of damage. So, if we look at the environment, monoculture overspecialization diminishes ecosystem resilience and leads increasingly to crop and animal diseases, water pollution from sewage and industrial contaminant spills. Then we have declining effectiveness of agrochemical biodiversity, and more and more, fertilizers and insecticides need to be used in order to protect our plants; high resilience on fossil fuel energy, mainly for manufacturing our fertilizer; threats to biodiversity from increasing corporate concentration within seed and agrochemical industries; and from the spread of genetically modified organisms. I have figures that show that three huge companies are the global producers of fertilizers in the world. This concentration is actually wrong for farmers, both because they don’t have access and/or it costs too much, and the big corporations are controlling the seeds. They don’t let farmers actually be farmers.
So, I think we should not be embarrassed by small-scale farming and that we should create policies to encourage and strengthen it. Why do I say that? In other parts of the world small-scale farms are doing fine. They don’t make the big profits that a huge farm is making, but this is the beauty of it, that by being small they can actually protect the environment and can produce better quality foods. I think we should be looking at the possibility of integrating very beautifully small-scale farms. This is where efficiency is going to come instead of coming from economies of scale. Efficiency is going to come from integrating.
For instance, on a small-scale farm we might have wind electricity produced by a small windmill or we can have a small waterfall which produces electricity for the farm. On the small-scale farm we can integrate both animals and crops. Then you can use the manure to fertilize naturally your crops. In Newfoundland, we can use fish waste in order to fertilize the land and keep away the chemicals.
I gave you the figures for China, where the small-scale farms are producing jobs for people. At the same time, I checked what is happening in the European Union. In the European Union, the 28-member countries, in 2013, of the 10.8 million farms, 86.3 per cent were small farms with 2 to 20 hectares of utilized agriculture area.
Basically, I think if we redevelop our agriculture around keeping the big farms for exporting our produce, and at the same time develop small-scale farms for feeding locally our people, I think we will all be better off. But these small-scale farms need support.
I can give an example. I also teach in Iceland. Iceland is a small island like Newfoundland. They import 45 per cent of their fruits and vegetables. But at the same time, they have a very small sector of locally produced vegetables. They produce tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers. So, these are the best things in the world. The small-scale farmers are subsidized and, of course, they benefit from the very cheap renewable energy that they have available. They have hot houses. Consumers actually prefer this produce because it is better tasting. I was told that the difference in taste is not because they are not transported around in the world, but in the water quality because tomatoes and cucumbers are mostly water. Iceland has the best water in the world. They never treat their water. It comes from the glaciers. So, water going into these veggies makes them the best in the world and I always buy them. They are a little pricier, but they are much better.
The third thing I want to talk about is carbon pricing. Now this was a very good move by Canada because we having so many emissions, CO2 emissions. We should take care of this. But I think that carbon pricing alone cannot clean our air, soil and water. It is very important to understand this. I have examples of countries in the world which are using either carbon taxes or these cap-and-trade mechanisms to diminish the amount of emissions.
We have something different, which is our rich biodiversity. And we have the carbon sequestration potential of our forests and our land. We have so much land available. A recent study has shown that healthy land actually can absorb more carbon emissions from the atmosphere than the oceans and standing forests. This is brand new from Northwestern University and the Organic Centre in the U.S.A., and I believe that they are right. Demeter International, the oldest ecological certification organization in the world, has introduced soil testing for carbon sequestration, helping farmers to build biologically active soils not only for the health of their crops but also for the health of the planet.
So I don’t say that we shouldn’t have the carbon taxes or schemes for cap-and-trade. I agree that they should be addressing all big polluters, and I completely agree that we should identify those big polluters, which are oil and gas industries and transportation, and we should be focusing on keeping our soils healthy. Then we have a huge source of biodiversity neutralization that keeps our forests standing.
Canada has a small sector of organic agriculture. While consumers are happy to buy organic, we don’t have enough producers. Why don’t we have enough producers of agriculture? First of all, they don’t have enough support for this and the process of getting certified is costly, really costly. It’s a normal process because in three years basically they need to rebuild their soil and make the soil healthy in order to produce this organic type of agriculture. But at the same time, I think we academics are guilty because we don’t offer enough courses in agro-ecology, for instance. Farmers don’t know what they are supposed to do because this type of organic agriculture requires the farmers to know their soils and to know their crops and to know what type of organic fertilizer they should be using. There is a lot of science behind that, and I think we should be offering more courses in this type of agriculture rather than courses in conventional agriculture and then everyone is going to be happy.
I will finish by saying that I’m happy that Canada published a discussion paper on principles and priorities of a national food policy where most of these ideas are well received. We must focus on agriculture not as just a source of profits but as a source of food. I think we need a systemic integrative approach to all Canada’s rich sectors of renewable resources. We need to work together around agriculture, forestry and fisheries. I feel that we’ve been focusing on fossil fuels and non-renewable types of resources. We actually built our wealth on it and I think it’s time to focus on our renewable resources because they are renewable. They just renew themselves if we let them and then they become a huge source of clean wealth for us. Thank you so much.
The Acting Chair: Thank you so much, Dr. Sabau.
Dr. Jardine, please.
Don Jardine, Project Manager, Climate Research Lab, University of Prince Edward Island, as an individual: Thank you for inviting me and hopefully I’ll be able to give you some information that you can use. Most of my presentation has been created by others. Dr. Adam Fenech was a big part of it but he was unable to come. This data that you’re going to see, a lot of it is in charts. It was intended to be a PowerPoint presentation so I’ll try to fill in the blanks. It hasn’t been peer reviewed in the sense that the data presented hasn’t been reviewed by others to be presented in a paper.
The first slide is about Canada’s past temperatures. You can see there that the temperatures have been increasing across Canada. The warming has been the highest in the Yukon and Northwest Territories in Central Canada and the Prairies. As far as the precipitation, you can see the changes over the last 60 years or so, since 1950. The coasts have been rainier and the prairies dryer. So, you can see areas there with the large triangles. The size of the triangle indicates that there has been more rain in the last 60 years than historically before that. Future temperatures that we can expect into the 2050s, you can see there the different colours. The red colours are the ones where we’re going to get the highest predicted temperature increases. These are developed through climate models. There are about 40 global climate models which are used and ones that are more applicable to Canada are used for this analysis. You can see there that the cooling effect of the oceans makes the coastal areas maybe not so much of an increase.
The precipitation increases that are projected, again, there are changes proposed there. You can see that the coastal areas around Atlantic Canada tend to be on the lower side and as you go north there it’s proposed to be a bit higher. Now the temperature normal, we’ve been looking at that over the past number of years. Environment Canada uses a 30-year climate normal to provide an analysis of your normal temperature. You can see on this slide that at Fredericton, New Brunswick, from 61 to 90 was 5.2 and up to 2010 it’s 5.6. So you can see a slight change in increase. We picked one site, Truro, Nova Scotia. The mean annual temperature there has gone up a half a degree in the last 30 or 40 years.
The next slide shows you that since records have been kept -- since Prince Edward Island joined Confederation in 1873 -- we have seen a gradual increase in the mean annual temperature by about 1 degree. Of course, you can see at the far right the area that’s circled there, the last say 20 years, 15 years it’s actually been a little higher than that trend. We also have a slide in here for Newfoundland and Labrador that shows the trend is going upwards, and if you break it down by season, you can see that winter has seen the biggest increase. Spring is the lowest and the other two seasons are sort of in between.
Prince Edward Island again, if you compare the period from 1881 to 1910 with 1981 to 2010, which is 100 years later, you can see by month where we’re seeing the increase. Every month is higher, but the months of February and December are the highest. So it seems like we’re getting warmer winters, which is kind of good in a sense. But the September, October period is where you’re not seeing as much increase.
Of course, temperature extremes are important for agriculture and forestry, extreme hot days and the coldest days. The coldest year that we’ve had in the past 30 years was 1993 when Mount Pinatubo erupted. So, we can see changes due to volcanic eruptions which can affect the heat coming from the sun. As a matter of historical perspective, the year 1816 was considered to be the coldest on record and there was another volcano near Mount Pinatubo in the same area, Indonesia.
So you can see there on the lower right that the extreme cold days on Prince Edward Island have been decreasing. The number of days lower than minus 20, you can see, have been decreasing.
Precipitation normal, we can go back to Truro. You can see there that the mean annual precipitation at Truro for the normal periods has basically stayed the same. Not much change. In the Atlantic Region, there’s another graph here that shows St. John’s airport in Newfoundland basically no change. A little perhaps in the last 30 years, maybe a 4 per cent increase. For Charlottetown, it has actually been decreasing in the last 30 years by about 14 per cent. You can see the trend line on the graph is going down.
Snow days is the number of days we have snow in Truro, Nova Scotia. You can see the graph is showing that it has been decreasing by about 12 days since the first normal period recorded there.
Also, in terms of the rainfall, frequency of precipitation, the number of days we have precipitation is actually decreasing. But if you look at the graph on the lower left showing the intensity of rainfall events. It’s raining or snowing harder, we’re getting more per event by 6 per cent than we had in the past. This projection from Environment Canada suggests that we are going to get more intense rainfall events and snowfall events, and I think we’re seeing that in some of the storms that we’ve had in recent years.
I’m going to move on to temperature changes in the Atlantic region. These are again taken from global climate models which are down-scaled to the local region. You can see here that New Brunswick, the northern part, is going to have the greatest increase. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island will be about the same. Newfoundland is going to be a little cooler which, of course, is again affected more by the Atlantic Ocean.
As far as the mean annual temperature for Charlottetown, on the next slide you can see that we have plotted the mean annual temperatures over the years from the 1880s up until the 1990s. You’re seeing there a gradual increase. There is some up and down, but the projections based on the climate models are saying that near the end of the century, we could be up in the 8.3 range for our mean annual temperature, which is over two degrees higher than what we are now. One degree makes a big difference.
As far as precipitation, again, we’re seeing some increases are being projected. Again, the coastal areas seem to be having maybe slightly lower amounts but then there are areas that are going to be higher along the coast as well. If you look at Newfoundland, up on the west coast near Gros Morne, in that area, 11.6 per cent. So we will be seeing changes.
The next graph is an intensity duration frequency graph that is used by engineers and others to design storm water culverts and drainage, bridges and things like that, to size the culverts properly to handle the storm water that’s going to come through. These graphs have been changing over the last number of years. Because Environment Canada in the 1990s removed a number of rain gauges that were tipping bucket rain gauges, we were not able to get up-to-date information on intensity of rainfall because we didn’t have hourly readings. They were daily and so, we didn’t get the actual flow from a storm. Last summer Prince Edward Island had two thunder storms. One of them had 100 millimetres of rain in one and a half hours, and if we plotted it on this graph, it’s a 1 in 200-year storm. So when you’re designing your infrastructure for storm water drainage, and this even applies to farms and forestry roads, you have to prevent your roads and your culverts from being washed out and that’s why these curves are important.
Also for total precipitation for the past and future for Charlottetown, you can see there’s been a range back in the 1880s around 1,400 millimetres per year. It reached a peak in the 1970s. It’s on a downward trend now and we expect that trend to continue. Then toward the middle of the current century, it’s going to start going up and will continue in that vein toward the end of the century, where it will get back to perhaps the levels it was in the early 1900s.
I guess when you’re assessing all of these factors, agriculture and forestry depend on rain inputs and heat inputs for crop growth and for tree growth, and, actually, which species will grow, which species will die off, and which crops will best fit the new trend in what we’re seeing from our changing climate. We actually did a study, the picture of the potatoes you see there. Prince Edward Island farmers can get crop insurance for certain crops each year, and they want to know whether the current derivatives that they’re using in their standards are going to change and whether they should be changing their standards.
I’m going to take you through a couple of these quickly. For instance, pumpkin and squash growing, and this one here is actually from the Ottawa airport. They like hot days, 23 to 29 during the day, 15 to 21 at night. The number of those days, as you can see on the trend line, are gradually increasing. So actually the conditions for squash and pumpkins are good and we should be able to show an increase in those particular crops. Also, when you’re growing applies and other fruits one of the factors is frost, especially when the blossoms are out. This applies also to strawberries, blueberries and other fruit crops. So this is an attempt on this next slide to show you the number of last days of low temperature after first bloom, risking 90 per cent kill rate of apples. That trend has been going down as you see on that graph. So that’s a good thing.
Now the next ones are kind of complicated. Don’t expect me to answer too many questions about all of these, but there is a colour rider. Farmers on Prince Edward Island, or New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, or any province, have to meet a certain standard when they ship potatoes to the processing plant. If those potatoes have been chilled or are too cold, it affects the sugar content in the potato. The consumer requires a nice appearance, a brownish colour for their French fry. So this particular slide is telling farmers if they have crop damage, like if there was a late frost, or maybe freezing conditions before harvest, then this rider here would tell you that they can get insurance coverage. You can see here there has not been really a lot of change, although 1973-74 was a period when it wasn’t too good. Blight is also an issue, but it isn’t on that slide.
The next slide is about drought. For the last two years on Prince Edward Island the farmers have been complaining that they haven’t had enough rain during the growing season. So, this indemnity that they have – if you have 25 consecutive days with less than five millimetres of total daily rainfall between June 1 and September 30, so it tries to show here that there’s a bit of a trend in that area as well.
Next is the effect on silage. I have a sister who has a big dairy farm, and the conditions of silage are a big thing for them. You can’t have excessive rain during the harvest season because you can’t harvest your crop. This insurance coverage talks about or covers that particular thing, and you can see there were a couple of years where they had, in 1981, I guess, and around 1987-88, excessive rain during that critical time period.
Forage seed quality: Forage crops are important and the frequency of rain is also important, and there’s not a lot of change going on in that area. There was a period from 1923 until about 1968 where there wasn’t any big change, but that one’s not a big factor.
Hay quality: When you’re harvesting a hay crop, you have to have three consecutive days with zero rainfall. You can see there that the critical time for that is July 1 to July 25, and the trend is actually going down. That sort of coincides with drought as well. Farmers sometimes look for the best of both worlds. You want lots of rain when the plant is growing, but then when it’s harvest time you don’t want it to rain. So this shows you that.
The next slide is showing you a couple of pictures of gulley erosion and what happens after a very intense rainfall event. You can see there a storm in June of 2010. The other one was actually in April after a snow melt. Again, we are looking at requiring some policy measures to protect against soil erosion because large fields, especially if there’s bare soil in the spring when the snow is melting, can have a lot of silt runoff.
Frost free and growing seasons: Again, this is another critical factor for farmers for all different types of crops, but you can see there that the frost-free days have been gradually increasing at Charlottetown from 196 days in the 1960 to 1990 period to 2010 when it was up to 205. That’s projected to be 254 by the middle of this century, up to 2070, so the growing season length is gradually increasing. That‘s good for farmers in a sense, and this is based on a global climate model with the 8.5 RCP.
The next slide is growing degree days. Some people call it crop heat units or corn heat units. This is just another expression of the number of days when plants will grow. This is where the temperature is going to be at least 5 degrees Celsius. You can see there that the trend is going up and by 2070 could be up to 2200 versus 1600 or 1700 at the current time. So that’s a major consideration.
The next slide is just showing you growing degree days in recent years at Charlottetown, and you can see the trend line compared to the norms back in the 1970s and 1980s. There’s a gradual trend to more growing degree days, so that will affect the number, types of crops.
As far as past and future, there’s disaster coverage for forage. You can see there the future prediction. It shows not a lot of change there but maybe some more risk for drought.
I did put in a couple of slides about forests. I apologize for not having a lot of content on forests, but I think you’re having Charles Bourque present later today. He and Hassan did a study on the forests of Prince Edward Island. They studied the different forest species and which ones are projected to change with climate change. It says that several P.E.I. forest species are at risk due to climate change. Species on the decline will be species like white birch, white spruce, black spruce. Balsam fir would be another one in that category. Also, species on the increase include red oak and red maple. Our foresters aren’t like farmers. They plant their trees today and they’re going to be like 40, 50, 60 years later, so what trees do you plant today that are going to be harvested in a lifetime from now which are the right species? So that’s a question.
If you look at the next slide, pick out balsam fir. A lot of people put them in their living rooms at Christmastime for Christmas trees. But you can see there the current species distribution is pretty well all across Prince Edward Island. But you can see as the century continues, by 2100, basically balsam fir won’t grow on Prince Edward Island. So Christmas tree growers that use balsam fir may have to start thinking about other species if they’re going to grow them on Prince Edward Island. Those charts are available for several different species.
You can’t talk about agriculture and forestry without thinking about the risks from evasive species, and I’ve listed a whole bunch of them here. Even in the fishery, we’ve been seeing the effects on tunicates from the mussel growing in P.E.I. and lobster and shrimp.
So the climate is going to be warmer and as the century goes on, it’s going to be wetter and dryer depending on where you live. The future climate is going to be three to four degrees warmer. We’re going to have more frost-free days, more growing degree days. So there are all kinds of pluses and minuses for both agriculture and forestry. There’s a lot of work to be done.
I just received a study. The Climate Lab at UPEI is doing a study for the provincial government on various sectors, and forestry and agriculture are two of those that we are reviewing. They have some recommendations. I’ll just read a couple of them here: “Commission a comprehensive study of crop opportunities and challenges under a warming climate over the next 30 years; build an understanding of irrigation requirements and anticipate drought conditions and common methods used to address them.” These recommendations came out of meetings with the forestry and agricultural people. “More climate stations to have more accurate weather data; integrate climate change into agriculture insurance framework; commission a comprehensive study of pests and pathogens that could be introduced to Prince Edward Island for the different crops and even for livestock.” Pests can affect them as well.
I think I’ll end it there.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Jardine, for a very comprehensive presentation. Thank you both.
Senator Doyle will be our first questioner, followed by Senator Oh.
Senator Doyle: Really a very interesting presentation, no doubt about it.
Ms. Sabau, you present very interesting and disturbing numbers with respect to Canada and our greenhouse gas emissions. The 17 OECD countries, they’re averaging 12.5 tonnes per capita and we’re up to 20 tonnes. Do the agricultural and the forestry sectors play any role in these numbers, or when you say 20 tonnes, are we looking at oil and coal and forest fires and fossil fuels? The agricultural sector wouldn’t play any great role in that, would it?
Ms. Sabau: The recent inventory of greenhouse gas emissions by sectors, economic sectors and agriculture actually of the whole amount, produces 60 megatonnes which is less than the emissions from the oil and gas industry, electricity-producing plants and transportation. Our transportation produces a lot so I have here all this. So, stationery combustion and fugitive sources produce -- this is a figure from 2014 -- 391 megatonnes but transportation produces 203 megatonnes. Industrial processes produce 51 and agriculture actually is down one megatonne to 59, followed by waste.
Agriculture doesn’t produce that much, as you can see. Besides, we have the forests. According to the articles I have read, our forests used to be carbon sinks, but lately they are no longer carbon sinks because of insect invasions and fires in the western part of the country. This has had an impact on aspen trees which are being affected and destroyed. So the capacity of our forests to carbon sequestrate has diminished. We need healthier forests than what we have now. So while our degree of deforestation is really low, one of the lowest in the world and we have plenty of forests, we need to do something with all these negative impacts on our forests to keep them healthy.
If we consider agriculture, if we improve the quality of our soils, then they will be a sink, not a source of greenhouse emissions. I’m not so much worried about agriculture.
You mentioned taxes, how they are going to affect things, maybe that’s going to be another question. I think, in our taxation, we should be targeting the big polluters and not agriculture. I want to give you one example: Sweden and how they dealt with their acid rain. Sweden in the 1980s had an issue with the acid rain, and they didn’t know how to solve it. They identified that sulphur dioxide was a huge emission and electricity producing plants were the culprits. So they developed taxes for these big polluters. The tax on these high polluters -- now we have $10 per tonne and we complain about that – was $4,000 per tonne. In 10 years they did away with their pollution, SO2, and now they have the lowest CO2 pollution in Europe because they continued to reduce the amount of pollution by addressing the lower pollutants by giving them the same treatment.
That decade when companies were supposed to pay that big tax for their emissions was the best decade for innovation because these companies didn’t want to pay that much so they innovated. They cleaned up their act. They were helped by the tax system. It was designed in a way that you pay this huge tax but you get a rebate the moment you demonstrate that you can produce clean electricity. That was good for everyone.
I think we should be aiming to have such a system in Canada where the big pollutants are being targeted. They should pay huge amounts of money, not a tax of $1 which is going to affect everyone including poor people and poor farmers. If taxes would be returned to polluters once they cleaned up their act it would provide incentives for them to innovate and introduce cleaner technologies. This is what we should be doing.
We all talk about carbon taxes and cap-and-trade. I want to tell you how I feel about this. I think it was wise for the federal government to leave to the provinces the way they design their systems, either to adopt a carbon tax system or a cap-and-trade system. As an economist who knows about ecology, I think that taxes are easier to implement but that cap-and-trade is more efficient in reducing emissions. Why? Because even if it’s highly taxed, companies are going to get the money and pay the tax. So we are going to still pay for our tax right to pollute and companies are going to pay if they have the money and they are not going to really reduce the amount of emissions.
But with cap-and-trade, the government is going to set a cap. This is the quota of emissions that is allowed for Halifax, for instance. Once they decide the cap, then they need to identify who are the polluters and they need to give licences to these polluters to actually pollute, they have the right. Then they trade if they are cleaner. They can trade the right to pollute to others, and a market develops. The beauty of the system with cap-and-trade is that the government is supposed to periodically revise and reduce the cap. And then we really have diminishing emissions.
Studies say a tax system, either carbon tax or cap-and-trade, must be well designed and well monitored. That’s the issue. You need to design and keep an eye on what happens. Both are going to be efficient and can be used.
The Acting Chair: The next questioner will be Senator Oh.
Senator Oh: Thank you for your very thorough presentations and the chart. You spent a lot of time collecting all the information.
My question is for the professor. You seem to be in favour of small-scale farming. Canada is the fifth-largest exporter of agriculture and agri-food and exports all over the world. As you know, the world’s population is growing so fast and there is limited land available for farming. Even in China, each household has only one acre or a maximum three acres to farm. You believe that small-scale farming will better control CO2 emissions. I thought it was the other way around, that large-scale farming and lower-cost farming offer more effective controls.
Ms. Sabau: No. So the process in the big farms where you use a lot of fertilizers and a lot of water to produce the big crops is going to damage the land and produce more emissions. With a small-scale farm, the farmer can actually protect the quality of the soil because they don’t use the chemical fertilizers. They can actually improve the quality of the soil by not producing intensively. Whenever you use a piece of soil intensively, you destroy the quality of it and the quality of the produce actually. So I don’t say that Canada should not produce wheat because we are one of the biggest producers of wheat in the world. I say have the big farms, but we should also encourage the small farms because small farms could feed our local populations.
I want to just bring you this. David Ricardo developed the Theory of Comparative Advantage. All trade in the world is based on the Theory of Comparative Advantage. When a country has comparative advantage, for instance, a tropical country would have comparative advantage in producing coffee. Canada will never have a comparative advantage in producing coffee. So the country that has the comparative advantage needs to specialize and to trade that produce to the rest of the world because it can produce a big quantity. But David Ricardo never said that you should export everything and not feed your people first. So that was the condition. He said that you feed your people first and whatever is in excess you are free to export.
I think at this point we are exporting a lot of food and we are importing at the same time, just for the sake of having diversity or for increasing profits. I just want to give you one example, which is more relevant for why I say exporting everything is not good and we should keep something for our people. Newfoundland produces beautiful fish, as you know. However, I’m not able to buy fresh fish because our fish goes to China where it’s processed cheaper and comes back frozen. Why is that?
The small place in Iceland, where I teach is very small with a small campus, 3,000 people. They have a fish market, and every day I stop and buy fresh fish. Fishermen bring their fish every morning, and I have 15 species to choose from which are fresh for the day. Why don’t we have that in Canada? I would love to have fresh fish.
We are importing fruit and vegetables from other countries. Why not produce them right here and diversify, just the three crops or the three commodities. They even call them commodities. Food is not a commodity, especially when we talk about fish. It cannot be considered a commodity and just shipped around because it loses its nutritive qualities, all for the sake of increasing profits.
Senator Oh: But that is what you call bilateral trade.
Ms. Sabau: A type of bilateral trade, yes.
I wrote an article about CETA, our trade agreement with the European Union. I was critical of it because I don’t think we have enough safeguards in place to protect our fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador and I know the European Union destroyed their fisheries systematically with this type of industrial harvest. Now they are buying fishing rights in Africa, and they are coming after this. I know it will be fine for us to sell our Bombardier products and our manufactured goods, but I am skeptical that the same profit is going to come out of our fisheries, which need to be protected.
The Acting Chair: Senator Gagné, please.
Senator Gagné: I would like to piggyback on the question of trade. I believe that trade policy affects the food we grow, sell, buy and eat. I know that you’re actually proposing a plan to produce enough food to feed ourselves, which is, I believe, a very honourable goal as a country, if we do get there. First of all there’s the trade policy and agreements, and we’re renegotiating NAFTA. How do we change consumer behaviour, getting our mangos, bananas, green peppers all year round? How do we change consumer behaviour, because that’s what’s driving our consumption?
Ms. Sabau: I think we are very spoiled as consumers. I think this is where it should be going because it’s nothing wrong to eat your fruits and vegetables in season, but now we don’t have seasons. As you say, we can indulge in all these products. I don’t think it’s healthy. I think we should stay with what we produce and not have so much importing because transportation actually puts more CO2 in the atmosphere. Why not enjoy our own and give jobs to our farmers who can produce beautiful fruits and veggies.
I don’t say we should stay away or become protectionists. I don’t say that. I just say that we need better policies in protecting the small-scale farmers who are able to produce these foods for local consumption. And our consumers actually want that.
I had a study done in Newfoundland to see if people prefer organic produce, and they said, “Yes, but we are not sure that what it says on the label is right.” That’s true. Sometimes the organic stuff we receive in Newfoundland is wilted and no one buys it because it’s a little bit more expensive.
I want to give you an example from Germany. When Germany wanted to promote organic agriculture. The government provided subsidies to stores where this produce was sold. Here, as a consumer, when you want to buy organic, you pay more. When you buy organic food and you go to pay the cashier, you get a rebate. That rebate is actually subsidized by the government. That’s how we educate consumers and we can do that.
The Acting Chair: Professor Jardine, with the longer growing season that you’ve identified because of warmer days, would some of those fruits and vegetables now be possible to grow? We could depend less on imports if we could grow some of those vegetables as a result of the climate changes we will see in the future?
Mr. Jardine: Well, we have to look at individual vegetables and fruits to see what growing season they require. I couldn’t answer that off the cuff, but I can tell you about the experience that we’re seeing on Prince Edward Island. We’re seeing more vineyards being planted. Of course, they are sourcing their stock in Russia, or wherever they can get a hardy season-type grape, but some of them are coming from Italy and Portugal as well. So, they’re watching those and they’re trying to grow different types of grapes. Apple tree planting is on the increase in Prince Edward Island. We’re growing new varieties, soy beans and some of the other crops that historically didn’t do well on Prince Edward Island. Corn was another one. There’s more corn being grown and canola. There’s canola oil. They’re also experimenting with some newer crops. There are going to be opportunities from that, but we still are fairly dependent on the potato. That’s our big cash crop but corn and some of these other crops, some of our farmers are growing their own silage and this is helping them.
But I think it will be a while before we can grow bananas in Prince Edward Island.
The Acting Chair: I don’t think that’s going to happen too soon in Alberta either.
Senator Bernard: I want to pick up on the discussion around organic farming. I note in your briefing note, and we’ve heard this from other witnesses as well, that Canada’s organic sector is very limited. To change that there would really need to be quite a paradigm shift in consumer thinking and response to it. But I appreciated the example you gave just now, and I’m wondering if you could talk more about what sort of policies we would have to have in place here in Canada to help that shift along.
Ms. Sabau: I think it’s quite easy if we distinguish between the two sectors and we provide support for organic farmers. Then it’s going to be quite easy. When I say “support,” it is in terms of training and education, because young people should be learning about this organic agriculture.
I plan to teach a course on agro-ecology at Grenfell because Grenfell is in the process of becoming self-sufficient in terms of food. We have this big issue of food security on our island, only 3.5 days of food security. So if a plane does not come we are going to starve.
The government decided to address this and now we have identified 64 hectares, 1000 hectares of land that goes to farmers. These farmers will actually be able to access the land and will go into farming. So, instead of looking to the huge economies of scale from huge farms, encouraging subsidies for this type of organic agriculture and providing help with certification will help, because that’s a difficult and expensive process. Teaching about this and changing consumer habits can be done, but as you said, it’s going to be a paradigm shift. This is what we need actually changing this idea that we need to feed the world and saying we need to actually feed our people first, and then we can feed the world.
Senator Bernard: Where would consumers who are living in poverty fit into that whole model, that shift?
Ms. Sabau: In terms of being consumers?
Senator Bernard: Yes.
Ms. Sabau: Well, you provide subsidies, especially for these people who are not able to access these types of foods. You differentiate, especially if they have small children, and I think we should be providing this. We can do it in schools. Instead of giving our children all types of fat food or non-controlled sweets -- we feed our children too much sugar -- we can start by feeding them fruit and telling them that eating cabbage is healthy for them, and this should start at home.
Senator Bernard: Thank you.
Senator Doyle: I want you to comment, if you would, on the wastage of food in Canada. The numbers you have here seem to be a bit disturbing, if not disappointing. Six billion kilograms of food lost or wasted at the household and retail level, costing the country $31 billion annually. How can that be reduced? How is it happening? How can it be stopped?
And in case the chair doesn’t allow me a second question, how would you compare that wastage of food and loss of food with the U.S. or Europe? But, first of all, how can we reduce it, how can we stop it and what causes that?
Ms. Sabau: I think it’s a very important question.
One of my sons lives in California, and they waste more than we do here actually. I am appalled at this way of eating in restaurants and then bringing home whatever is left. We don’t have animals to feed the leftovers to. We just throw them in the garbage, and this is what piles up. I am trying hard with my family to make them understand that something is wrong with this attitude. I say that instead of throwing it in the garbage, give it to someone who needs it. Or don’t buy that much. But I think we buy too much and keep it in the fridge until it’s old and then we throw it out. Don’t we all do this?
Senator Doyle: Yes. We need a massive education program, too, because every time you turn on your TV, if it’s McDonald’s or whatever, they talk about up-size, up-size.
Ms. Sabau: Absolutely. The big portions restaurants give you I think are a disgrace. Actually, I was shamed by one of my students from Bangladesh, a graduate student doing a masters. We had a gathering and I piled up lots of food on my plate, and he took just a little bit. I said, “Why don’t you eat? It’s available.” He’s skinny, by the way. He said, “Because this is how much I eat; I don’t need more.”
Senator Doyle: It’s all connected to the obesity problems in the country as well.
Ms. Sabau: Yes, absolutely. Then we are putting money into our healthcare system to treat these people who are obese. We can solve the problem with education. We just diminish the amount. Having this big choice in the stores I think is also a problem. Why do we need to have 10,000 kinds of biscuits to choose from? I tell you, the best oats we have are from Canada. We produce the best oats in the world. I don’t think we should be importing them from the United States. Why do we need to compete with oats from other countries?
Senator Doyle: Are they doing anything different in Europe to reduce that problem?
Ms. Sabau: I don’t have examples from Europe to give you, but I think we should look at the developing countries and what they eat. They diversify their crops. They produce more crops. Do you know how many crops we produce in our agriculture, which is industrialized and seems to be functioning so well? One hundred and fifty types of crops. They produce 7,000 because they eat everything. Now we have started to eat some stuff from China, which we import. But I think we should be eating more things that we grow here and educate our children that this is good for you, not only over-processed food from McDonald’s.
The Acting Chair: Senator Gagné, please.
Senator Gagné: I was just reading up on the UPEI Climate Lab. I was quite interested in reading that you do work with the federal, provincial, university, commercial, indigenous and volunteer partners to bring together observations such as wind temperature, et cetera. Are there any other climate labs in Canada?
Mr. Jardine: Well, there are climate consortiums like Ouranos in Montreal. They do climate change projections. There’s a Pacific climate change group at the University of Victoria, so there are other centres working on climate-related activities.
Senator Gagné: Is there collaboration between the climate labs?
Mr. Jardine: The UPEI Climate Lab was doing a project with the four Atlantic Provinces called ACASA -- the Atlantic Canada Adaptation Solutions Association. We were part of that. The funding was coming from NRCan. And NRCan had an Atlantic sector and Ouranos was part of that. So we had dialogue back and forth with Ouranos. They also had national meetings where the different groups all across Canada would go and discuss common activities that they were working on.
We were working on things like coastal erosion and cost-benefit analysis of different protection techniques for shoreline protection. Ouranos was doing similar work in Quebec, so we would compare notes with them.
That project is over now, and there’s very little interaction between the groups. We’re having a climate change and human health symposium this coming week at UPEI. We’ve invited speakers from different places, but nobody from Ouranos was available. But we do have that.
Senator Gagné: So if Canada wants to adopt precision agriculture as an objective, I imagine that the sector would depend a lot on the data that you produce.
Mr. Jardine: Yes.
Senator Gagné: Wouldn’t it be wise to have climate labs across Canada?
Mr. Jardine: Well, I guess we’re sort of working on being the climate lab for Atlantic Canada. Yes, it would be good to have good climate data available. Because if you’re going to grow crops of any kind, you have to know your climatic conditions. You have to know your soil temperatures. You have to know the parasites and pests that you’re dealing with and know what the future may hold in terms of other factors.
But I see a big change in agriculture. Farmers today have some impressive technology. We have drones at the Climate Lab. There are farmers on Prince Edward Island and elsewhere in Canada and the U.S. who use drone technology. So when they’re applying their chemicals or their fertilizer, they will only apply it to the areas of their fields where the drone has picked up with the remote infrared photography. You’re paying $800 or $1,000 for a jug of pesticides. Farmers don’t want to spend that kind of money either. They’re using these chemicals because they have to, to control the pests that they have. But they’re trying to reduce that.
Of course, there are other factors. In P.E.I. we have the Crop Rotation Act where they can’t continue to grow potatoes every year. They have to have it on a minimum three-year rotation.
But having good climatic parameters for control of blight, you have to have on-farm instrumentation to detect. There’s a certain temperature range when blight will be killing or rotting a potato. It’s going to become more important to control those kinds of things and know the different factors.
We are getting requests from apple growers, and wine or grape growers for instrumentation so that they know what they’re dealing with, because they’re all trying to get an advantage. Farmers don’t like to grow bad food; they like to grow good food. And they’re trying to grow as good as they can.
The Acting Chair: Senator Bernard, please.
Senator Bernard: I would like to follow-up on your point about your lab being the climate lab for Atlantic Canada. Are you seeing interprovincial cooperation in the Atlantic region? Are there other areas for collaboration as part of that whole model?
Mr. Jardine: I mentioned the ACASA organization. ACASA has a website, and the four Atlantic Provinces, the Environment Departments at least, were working together. There was a fairly good dialogue among the four provinces, because they began to realize that the federal government does not want to deal with four little jurisdictions. They’d rather deal with one bigger group. Out of that necessity, the four provinces collaborated and worked together.
Now, unfortunately, for the last year or so, they haven’t had any new funding, so they sort of drifted on their own again. I’m saying this from a climate lab perspective. I used to work for the provincial government environment department on P.E.I., so I know the internal workings of government too. But that’s the reality right now.
There was a climate consortium in the Prairies, but I don’t think it worked so well. In Atlantic Canada there are other universities doing climate change work.
Senator Bernard: And are the universities in the region working together as well?
Mr. Jardine: To a certain extent, yes. We share data, share information, but it could be better.
Senator Bernard: If you were to make a recommendation around that, what would it be?
Mr. Jardine: I’d have to think about that. You find when you’re working in government, and even departments of government, that they don’t talk to one another. So your Health Department doesn’t talk to the Transportation Department and the Environment Department doesn’t talk. To get those groups working together is a big job.
It’s the same with the universities. Every university is struggling to get funding for their projects. UPEI is starting what’s called a climate change course. It’s going to be a four-year program and you can get an actual degree. It’s going to be interdisciplinary so you will have health, you will have agriculture, all the different components of that, and social sciences. Even psychology is part of it. So it’s trying to graduate students with a broader view of climate change and not just from an environmental perspective, because climate change affects everybody.
It affects your health. Hot days kill people. The more hot days we have, the more effects on older people we’re going to see, and disease spreading. You see that after the hurricanes down in Florida. One of the biggest problems is controlling the pests that arrive after the hurricane. So those are the things we have to work on to do a better job.
The Acting Chair: I just wanted to say, Mr. Jardine, that we will be meeting with representatives from Ouranos on Thursday in Montreal.
I have one last quick question before we have to terminate. Dr. Sabau, I wanted to ask you about carbon pricing mechanisms, as you referred to it. Do you think that Canada should have a carbon pricing plan in view of what our international partners are doing?
Ms. Sabau: Carbon pricing is essential because it sets a price on carbon emissions. But the way we do it, either as a tax on carbon or as cap-and-trade, that’s different. Some of the provinces have an experience with taxes. For instance, Alberta has taxes, but Quebec has cap-and-trade and Ontario wants to join them.
In order to have a cap-and-trade system, you need to actually develop a market. With regard to the success of cap-and-trade, we could assess the European Union because they are 28 countries. They developed the system of diminishing their emissions with a cap-and-trade system which involves a market where everyone has a licence giving them the right to trade emissions. Then someone needs to periodically revise the cap and reduce it.
So I think there is a solution for the provinces to work together like this. Develop a system of cap-and-trade, and if they want to trade with our neighbours across the border, to the south, why not? We can actually do that because there are carbon markets in the United States. They do that in certain states and we can join them.
I definitely feel we should address that. Carbon pricing is very important because it raises awareness of how much emissions we have and how we need to deal with that. But choosing between a tax and a cap-and-trade system, that is left to each province to decide.
From my experience as an economist who knows about ecology, you can better control emissions with a cap-and-trade system.
The Acting Chair: Our time is up. On behalf of the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, I wish to thank you very much for being here today to share your expertise, your thoughts and your observations. Your comments will be very important as we draft our report. We thank you for taking the time.
Ms. Sabau: Thank you for inviting us.
The Acting Chair: Honourable senators, we are pleased to have with us Dr. Charles Bourque, Professor, Acting Director of Graduate Studies, Forestry and Environmental Management, University of New Brunswick; and Dr. Paul Arp, Professor, Forest Soils, Forestry and Environmental Management, University of New Brunswick.
Thank you very much for being here. Following the presentations, the senators will be asking you questions.
Dr. Bourque if you could begin, please.
Charles Bourque, Professor, Acting Director of Graduate Studies, Forestry and Environmental Management, University of New Brunswick, as an individual: First of all, I will just introduce myself. I have been modelling ecosystems and climate change for about 18 years now. A lot of the subject matter that I will cover today relates to some of the peer reviewed results that I have obtained. If you have the write-up I gave you, I will start with some of the summary points.
The anticipated changes in climate are mostly unfavourable. There will be favourable results, but mostly unfavourable to forest ecosystems in Atlantic Canada. Climate change, as indicated, has some positive effects, but the negative effects outweigh the benefits.
A major impact of climate change is the displacement of tree species, as was addressed by Don Jardine earlier. He did quote some of the work that I have done in P.E.I. I did a similar study in Nova Scotia, as well as for New Brunswick. Most of the information provided in the write-up relates to New Brunswick, but a lot of these results are applicable to Nova Scotia.
Climate change, but also land cover modification, can cause problems with parts of forest ecosystems, but also to cold-water fish that live in low-ordered streams. Impacts can be felt across that domain.
I do discuss a bit about an accounting system, which I think is important with respect to looking at inventory of forests with respect to carbon sequestration, both in terms of the uptake of CO2, but also in terms of the storage of carbon within the ecosystem.
As to the anticipated impacts, Don Jardine addressed some of these. The initial ones that I have are based on other people’s work, but then as we go to the latter part of the write-up, it relates to work that I have done.
We talked about longer growing seasons, which can be a positive in terms of crop and forest productivity over the long term. Short term you can get carbon dioxide fertilization. But with the effect of climate change, some of those benefits will disappear.
Another element of climate change is that precipitation will increase. What I tend to do is bring the predictions from global climate models, or regional climate models, down to a very small scale; 30 metres for this particular case for New Brunswick.
One of the impacts is, on average, the soils will tend to get wetter. There will be a large variability in terms of precipitation. You can get periods of drought. It’s not outside the envelope of possibility. But in the long term, the average indicates that soils will become wetter. In terms of Figure 1, I provide a sequence of figures that show how relative soil water content in northern New Brunswick will change from 2011 to 2100. There is a wetting of the soils over the long term.
On a longer time scale, dealing in terms of the decadal scale, climate change will contribute to the displacement of tree species at different rates. All species are not equal. Different species have different vital attributes and, therefore, different responses to climate change. So, in a sense with this variation, decoupling of the forest ecosystems may occur, causing new forest associations for form.
In terms of this decoupling, there is a possibility of local forest biodiversity, in both flora and fauna, and ecosystem integrity may be impacted negatively with climate change. Of course, some of the ecological services provided by these ecosystems will also be affected.
In Figure 2, I provide a sequence of figures of New Brunswick where the colours indicated from red to blue, or dark blue, refer to the habitat quality for a given species. Here we have three species, balsam fir being one. The second one is red maple and the third is sugar maple.
If you look in terms of the context of the upper titles, the first one is what we currently have and the second represents what will happen by 2100 for RCP 4.5. RCP represents a representative concentration pathway, defined by the IPCC; 4.5 refers to the net radiative forcing of 4.5 watts per square metre. The larger that number, the greater heating we can expect by 2100.
The third column of figures gives you the same results for the same area for the same species for RCP 8.5. So, RCP 8.5 is a more aggressive climate change scenario where there is no change in terms of the production of greenhouse gases or the emission of greenhouse gases. In terms of 4.5 there is a reduction of emissions by 2040. So, by 2100 you wouldn’t expect to see the temperatures and precipitation patterns will not range as high as what you would get with RCP 8.5.
In terms of balsam fir, what it is indicating here, especially if it follows the RCP 8.5 scenario, is that the species is expected to disappear from New Brunswick. The only places where that species may be retained are along very cool areas, especially along cool water bodies or in high elevation areas.
In terms of red maple, the expectation is that red maple will tend to do better. The numbers are provided as indices of habitat quality, with red being a value of one, where one is optimal habitat for the species. The same thing with sugar maple; there is an indication that the habitat will become better. As you can see if you take into account the variation in topography, you will get variation in those general patterns that I just described.
In terms of Figure 3, we have the species composition for a given permanent sample plot in New Brunswick. This would be in the highlands of the province, which tend to be cooler. You have a softwood component. Here the softwood component is predominantly balsam fir. If you follow the coloured diagram, balsam fir is represented by the line in yellow. You will see by 2040 or so, or at least in the middle of the time series here, balsam fir will tend to disappear from the stand.
With respect to the hardwood component, sugar maple and beech, if it is not affected too badly by beech disease, will tend to remain in the landscape. It will be present in the landscape more than balsam fir. So again, it is indicating a similar trend that we see in the figures provided in Figure 2. These are all based on projections based on models. To substantiate some of the patterns we see here, we analyzed actual data.
The next point relates to a hot-spot analysis of existing data. What we have done is taken permanent sample plot -- PSP -- data and looked for trends in tree performance at the regional scale. There are potentially 3,000 PSPs available for this work. A PSP is simply a small piece of land, typically of 400 square metres, and within that area, foresters follow the trajectory of the tree species growing in the PSP over time. In this particular case we decided to look at balsam fir. How is it doing based on historical data? What we find is that the mortality rates are highest where it is warmer and where it tends to be wetter. The survival rate tends to be better in the cooler parts of the landscape.
If you go to Figure 5, it essentially shows you the distribution of some of those permanent sample plots where we were able to quantify, just as an example, what has happened historically with respect to growing degree days, referred to earlier as corn units. It is essentially the same notion here, but it uses different base temperature. The base temperature I am using here is based on the tree species, as opposed to that of corn. Corn has a much higher base temperature than many tree species.
What we see with respect to growing degree days is based on a base temperature of 5.6 degrees Celsius. You will see that from 1951 to 2007 there is an indication of temperature increase. So we can actually quantify to some extent. Of course, the change that we see historically is not the same as what we expect in the future. It will be much larger. So, some of the patterns we see with respect to historical data, mortality in balsam fir, will probably be much more severe in the future.
Another aspect of my study was to look at the wind speeds over the landscape of New Brunswick. What we find from RCM data, regional climate model data, is that the change in wind speed is not as large as what we see in terms of precipitation or in terms of temperature. There is a change, but the change is minute compared to the other variables mentioned.
The greatest wind speed change occurs along the interface between the land mass and the ocean, where the temperature gradients are the greatest. The land will heat up much more than the water.
Figure 6 gives you a map. You can view this map as a risk map for blowdown across the province. The white spaces in the map are actually areas where we didn’t have any information. But you can visually extend that by simple extrapolation or interpolation by considering where the various colours occur.
Typically, the highest winds, even though they will not necessarily increase that much over the next 84 or 85 years, will be along the coast as well as in the highlands of the province.
In terms of the level of force destruction by windthrow, it depends on many things. It depends certainly on the wind speeds. It depends on the species rooting habits, tree form, which defines the basal area or the cross-sectional area of the tree that interacts with the wind, stand density, soil depth, soil wetness and other site-specific factors. Each of these contributes to a portion of the overall impact.
Blowdown can have a severe economic impact. It is very difficult to plan for blowdown. You could try to take into account the factors that do impact windthrow and try to mitigate some of these impacts that way.
An example of a significant New Brunswick event was Hurricane Arthur that went through in 2014. We used that as the base study to quantify the probabilities of windthrow. Then we applied it to the Christmas Mountain blowdown on November 7, 1994, where close to 4 million cubic metres of wood was lost to windthrow. So, there is an economic association and that amounted in 1994 dollars to about $100 million. Forest companies had to salvage the wood within the first two years to be able to recoup some of that lost revenue.
Windthrow, as indicated, is a function of species. Different species have a different critical wind speed that can cause trees to topple, while others would not be affected by it. One of the species that has a very low sustainable wind speed is balsam fir because of its shallow rooting. Sugar maple is the most resistant to windthrow. Of course, that means that there will be variability with respect to windthrow across the New Brunswick landscape, given the makeup of the forests of New Brunswick.
If you look at balsam fir habitat from the previous figures, Figure 2, I believe, we see that that particular species is expected to be displaced northward because of the net warming of the environment and increase in soil water content. With the presence of balsam fir changing, you have windthrow and species displacement potentially working together. So, in a sense, the impacts will reflect those changes.
With respect to balsam fir, we can look at frozen soils acting as anchoring support. In terms of softwood species, the snow and the canopy cover rarely causes the soils to freeze. Figure 7 shows you the time series of temperatures in the soil and, as you can see, very little freezing occurs. Whatever freezing occurs actually occurs in the first one or two centimetres from the surface. Again, that depends on snow cover, as well as the overhead cover, the crown foliage.
An issue with respect to hardwoods in particular relates to this notion of freeze and thaw, especially in mid-winter. We heard earlier today that the winters are being the most affected by climate change. The freeze/thaw issue has been looked at historically using four or five different events from the 1930s to the 1980s. It can cause dieback in hardwood stands.
Many of the impacts that I have talked about are applicable across Atlantic Canada. One impact that I probably skimmed over relates to the increases in temperatures of stream waters. A lot of the streams, especially the smaller streams, are inhabited by cold-water fish, and there is an indication, especially with the removal of vegetation cover, that the streams may warm. Also, there might be a warming of the groundwater which, again, might impose a certain level of stress on these cold-water fish.
The issue of carbon pricing has been raised. At the university we do not deal specifically with the economic aspects of that, but we do look at how to inventory forest ecosystems and how to bring forest management into the equation to optimize the carbon storage and carbon sequestration potential of forests. That can be done at the landscape and it requires different kinds of models. One of the issues with regard to this modelling is to try to quantify growth and yield to get a good assessment of the trees themselves, as well as the soils. Dr. Arp will probably talk about this later on. We can actually look at the inventory of carbon pools within the forest landscape.
That is essentially it. There is more in the write-up, and it is there for you to look at. If you have any questions, I will be happy to address them.
The Acting Chair: Thank you, Dr. Bourque.
We will move on to Dr. Arp’s presentation and then open it up for questions.
Paul Arp, Professor, Forest Soils, Forestry and Environmental Management, University of New Brunswick, as an individual: Thank you. You all have very colourful handouts, and hopefully this will make it easier for us to communicate about what I will talk about.
In the first picture, you see a landscape and how the water in the landscape distributes itself across the landscape. You would think that this is a no-brainer and it has been long understood where the water is and where the water flows in the landscape. But over my 30, 40 years at UNB working through the forest, I found many surprises in terms of when you actually start an operation and you send the machines out there to build a trail or a road, or something like that, there is always nasty surprises because some channels weren’t caught and some areas are too wet to move machines over. Much of this has never been really captured in detail in any kind of inventory, whether it is soil survey maps, whether it is forest inventory maps, or it is ecological site classification maps.
So we took on this challenge for the first time, really looking at where the water will be on the landscape at high resolution, summer through winter, if you like. What you see here on the front page is where the summer in this landscape affects the soil drainage such that the dark blue areas, the pooled rain part of the landscape, and then it peters off to some light blue where the soil is, we say, moderately well-drained. The rest of the landscape is what we consider a well-drained, or excessively well-drained, with the brown being excessively well-drained.
Why does this matter? This matters a lot in terms of what your mission is, namely, finding debility solutions to what is happening on the ground because everything we do in terms of natural resource extraction on the land depends on really knowing the ground conditions very well. When we came up with this idea and talked to the governments, the provincial governments and the forest companies and other folks, they got extremely enthusiastic about it and wanted to have this kind of mapping done for the entire jurisdiction.
If you flip to page 3, you will see a map of Canada on the right and that shows the extent to which we were able to carry this idea across Canada over the last 10 years or so. When we started this, we were trying to resolve the land water situation at the 10-metre resolution. That was basically the resolution at which we could push this kind of idea for best management practices. Agriculture is following suit in this as well. Now with the new technology of surveying called MiDAR, we have pushed this resolution to one metre resolution.
Alberta has been a very strong supporter for this idea over the last 10 years and we have now mapped 30 million hectares across the forest zones in Alberta, the green zone. The uptake by the forest companies has been terrific.
Our group has received the CIF Management Award this year for basically changing the way foresters look at the landscape in what they do every day. This is a good mark for UNB Forestry and the faculty as a whole.
In New Brunswick, we will have LiDAR coverage by the end of next year and by the end of the next year we will also have one metre resolution hydrological mapping done. The companies and the government can’t wait to get that as soon as possible. We are also having talks with Nova Scotia and we can also do this for Labrador and P.E.I., of course, if there is interest. We hope that this kind of presence will stimulate thought.
Now, in detail, what is the adaptation? The adaptation is, for example, if you are in forestry, when to harvest what and how to get there. As we have climate change, if the weather gets wetter, I guess we will get more blue area across the landscape. That is a significant factor because that means how do you leave the land for harvest blocking. Right now, the official streams are mapped by a regulatory process and the forest companies have to buffer that. But there are more streams across the landscape that are not buffered, but could at least become a machine-free zone so that you don’t block the water before it gets into the stream. These are the questions that we have been addressing as part of the adaptation.
In terms of climate change, as Charles has said, the winters have become milder across the Maritimes and that means the traditional way of forest harvesting in the winter is in jeopardy because you do not know whether the ground is frozen or not. If you have these heavy machines running over the ground when it is wet, guess what? It makes a lot of ruts, causes a lot of concerns from citizens and the companies themselves. So, they really want to know how to do a good job given the situation that we are already in where the winter has been changing.
There are many other consequences too. In the summer, for example, with growing seasons becoming longer there is also, as Charles says, chances of having more severe droughts, meaning more forest fires.
In the Maritimes we didn’t have many forest fires over the last year, just a few hectares that were easily put out. But that could become a major catastrophe in the future if you don’t handle it well. There is a lot of fire fuel on the ground in many of our forests because you generally get very thick thickets. When they are catching fire it can be explosive, like we have seen in Alberta. So, this is just one of those many things. We are deeply involved in making this happen.
When I talked about ten-metre resolution and one-metre resolution for specific projects, they are using the same techniques and computer software to find out what is going on, on a project basis, at the five-centimetre or better resolution using unmanned aerial vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles can make stereographs of the picture images of the surface and we can translate it into exactly the same frame as you see here. What that means is that farmers and even quarry owners and mining operators know exactly how the water gets to their projects and how it flows through their projects and where it takes off from there.
I would like to keep this short. I will just go to the recommendations. So what do we recommend in terms of adaptation?
First of all, we can’t do the expansion of the hydrological interpretation across the landscapes without support. We basically advocate that there should be an initiative to extend the forest metrics and the flow channel of the areas mapping initiative across Canada. We already covered quite a bit, as you have seen. But there is no reason why we can’t do this in Manitoba and Quebec and B.C. There is considerable interest there from various groups.
The other thing I strongly advocate is to put some life behind the soil mapping again at the resolution that is comparable to what we do for the hydrology because (a) we can do this. We have done work on that already, piece by piece, in New Brunswick. There is also a digitization initiative for the flow key. We attended a workshop a year ago on that.
Our ambition right now is to take a province like New Brunswick and have the wet-areas mapping and the soils totally conform to each other. If you look at whatever soil map you see across the country, they do not conform where the soil is supposed to be wet. It’s displaced and it’s not accurate and stuff like that. The worst criticism I got from basically wetland mapping and people that own wetlands was that our original 10-metre wasn’t accurate enough. With the one metre we get to the point where it becomes accurate property by property. If you have good information on the water, where the water hangs around, where it floods, and how the soils receive the water or not, it becomes a vital issue for adaptation.
Apart from that there are other things. Of course, with the soils you can have runoff and you get sedimentation. You get erosion. You get terrible stuff going on down the streams and lakes. That can be prevented if you have good maps and use them.
We should, therefore, facilitate land-use practices and one way apart from the mapping I would also suggest is that people should emphasize the signs on how to make sure that the soil gets more organic matter because soils with organic matter have better quality. They give you better crops. They give you more sustainable crops. There won’t be such a thing that you will have to abandon the soils because you have exhausted them. But there is lots of key research and I put references there for you to see where you can look at the issue of soil impoverishment due to continuous cropping and where the science is right now in order to bring that carbon back into the soil, which in turn helps with the carbon emission reductions. You have to contemplate that as well. Soil organic carbon is good. It really also depends with the mapping again, because then you know where your priorities should be in terms of enhancing as much carbon kept in the ground. The deeper you put the carbon in the ground, the longer it stays in the ground because when you grow forests and you use the forests, turn it to pulp and paper, the net effect of carbon sequestration is zero. But if you put carbon back up as a priority there is a good chance that we can withdraw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for many years to come, hundreds of years to come.
One of the key things in our work over the years has been knowledge exchange. We have had countless workshops, often attended by 100 people to 200 people, professional people, and those worked very well. I would suggest we make a concerted effort in this initiative, starting from the mapping, to bringing it to the people who should pay attention to it and will want to pay attention to it. Then we should help them in terms of formulating new management practices that can help with the adaptability to climate change. With that, I have some hope that Canada can basically step to the forefront of it because no other country has these techniques developed at this particular point, except the Swedes, who have been paying attention to us and have become copycats. Right now we have initiatives in Germany and Chile as well. So, there you go, made in Canada. Thank you very much.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much, Dr. Arp, and congratulations on winning the Wetlands Mapping Award.
Mr. Arp: Yes, the CIF Award.
The Acting Chair: That’s right.
Mr. Arp: There is actually a Forest Management Group Achievement Award.
It was just a week ago.
The Acting Chair: Very good. Thank you and congratulations.
The first question will be asked by Senator Doyle, followed by Senator Gagné.
Senator Doyle: First of all, a great presentation. Thank you.
We hear from a lot of witnesses in our travels and we meet on a weekly basis in Ottawa, twice a week as a matter of fact, and we get an awful lot of people who come in and want to talk about climate change. They agree to a person that climate change is a threat to our whole environment. There doesn’t seem to be too many positive things you can say about climate change. But every now and then you will have a witness who will say that maybe it can lead to the development of a different farm, a different agricultural base so to speak, maybe a lower rate of infestation in our forests. Do you have any opinions on that aspect or is it pie in the sky?
Mr. Bourque: I think there is a lot of that and I think a lot of that is done in terms of the understanding, and maybe the understanding is not completely correct. I don’t know if they are experts in the areas you are referring to. But from my dealings with people from around the world, there are artificial systems that you can probably envision. I try to deal with what we have there now and what we have there now in terms of forests. I’m sure you could modify the forests, for example, using assisted migration. But in principle I don’t agree with those concepts. Certainly, companies might look at that in a different view.
I think, from my point of view, it is too much manipulation by people, but it is always possible to have people in the forest industry or elsewhere that might come and say, “You know, we have the golden bullet or silver bullet,” when, in fact, there is really no evidence of that.
I have heard some comments made recently about some of the species that I referred to here, that if you look at the genetics they are probably able to persist longer because they have a wider genetic potential and may be able to adapt more. But there is no evidence of that, and I tend to go with what the evidence shows, either from my work or my colleagues’ work. So, sometimes I take those types of comments, without knowing any more, with a grain of salt.
Senator Gagné: What we’ve heard is that the soil is a vast carbon reservoir. It means that it can release carbon or it can sequester carbon depending on management practices. How fast is Canada adapting and how fast is Canada adopting sustainable soil management practices? What are the barriers?
Mr. Arp: Well, the barriers are basically money because farmers are hard pressed in order to do the right thing. But many of them have done erosion control, which came out in the 1930s and it is well practised by people in New Brunswick and across Canada. When you look at the landscape of Alberta you see mostly contoured fields, which is the correct way of doing it. So they have adapted.
But if you give them the proper incentive, for example, to put more roots into the ground which makes more carbon, there are ways and means which can be researched from a practical perspective. Once you have the ways and means and there is a win-win situation for the farmer who does that and makes more money, then that’s adaptation. But if you force the horse to go the way it doesn’t want to go that will be very expensive and not end up very well.
The easy solution to climate change, of course, is the breaking ground going further up in Manitoba and Saskatchewan where the planet is getting better for agriculture. But then, as you say, you have the problem of unleashing carbon that was stored in the soil and that will not be helpful unless you manage the new agricultural fields in such a way that we keep the carbon.
Again, in that respect, something could be done, but it should be researched before we actually put the plow in the ground.
Senator Gagné: So there is also a knowledge gap, I imagine, or an information gap so that we can adopt best practices in those areas?
Mr. Arp: The way the professionals work is that they will try new techniques and then they will put this into the economic context of the individual, as well as the province and so on. Then we’ll see whether they can support this initiative. So we are looking for bright ideas all the time.
The Acting Chair: Senator Bernard, please.
Senator Bernard: Thank you both for your presentations. Very informative and you are coming at the end of our day. So, thank you for that as well.
I have a question around knowledge exchange. I am very excited about that as one of your recommendations and you said at a lot of the events you have you typically have 100 people to 200 people. I would like to know who is attending. Who are the people attending those events and what is your gap analysis? Who is not attending? So who is not being informed?
Mr. Arp: The gap is everybody who didn’t come.
Senator Bernard: But are there particular stakeholders that you think ought to be there?
Mr. Arp: We address the stakeholders that we want to come to the meetings. Basically, the way the workshops in Alberta were done by a professional forestry organization, and they had a mission to set up this workshop. The invitations went out to various sectors. We had sectors from forestry, oil and gas, environmental consultants, park management and so on, NGOs and government officials. They had a day of workshops where they were introduced to the mapping that I am talking about. Then they go home and often they provide feedback because the next time we have a workshop the same people become the speakers. So it goes, it has the dynamic in itself such that people end up using it.
We have no idea who is using our maps at this particular point. But we usually hear good things about it or we hear some things, “Oh, could you do this better because we found the stream is over there and not over there. What went wrong?” That is knowledge exchange too. So, the feedback.
Senator Bernard: So it is a two-way process.
Mr. Arp: That’s right.
Senator Bernard: That’s really good.
I am also wondering about young people. How are young people being engaged in this work or are they being engaged?
Mr. Arp: They are engaged. Right now in Alberta we have about half a dozen forestry students from UNB being engaged by forest companies. We talk to them when they come back. The company actually engages them, looking at the map and helping them with the layout so to speak. First of all, even if it is a good map, it’s only a model.
If you want to sign on something as an engineer you have to be out there to verify it, but the verification is very fast. You just have to send somebody out with a GPS and you have the information you need. Hopefully the student is trustworthy, though.
Senator Bernard: Yes.
Mr. Bourque: Do you mind if I address that as well?
Senator Bernard: Please do.
Mr. Bourque: In terms of some of the issues that Dr. Arp was talking about, we tried the same things. For example, last year we had a workshop on climate change. We brought the tools that we use in our research and had the participants use them. The participants included people from the industry and from First Nations. We had both federal and provincial natural resources departments involved. We had a session, in which I was involved, where the participants had to do exercises. We provided the tools that we use in our research, the same tools I use in my courses actually. They are really easy to use. In terms of relaying information to the end-users -- the practitioners, members of the Association of Foresters -- we had them do small exercises using these tools that we use in our research.
Senator Bernard: Wonderful. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Senator Oh.
Senator Oh: Thank you, gentlemen.
Canada plays a leading role in responsibility for forest management, with the largest area of certified forest land in the world. We had 161 million hectares in 2015. What are the various forest management certification schemes available to the forestry sector?
Mr. Arp: I think neither of us is an expert on the certification process basically, but we have experts in the faculty who teach that in the courses. One is the UFC, which other companies are trying to prescribe to in keeping the forest in as a natural condition as possible. So, basically, when it comes to planting forests they have to really prove that this is still ecological sound management.
The companies vary with how they certify their management practices. Different companies have different ones and there are different criteria that are being applied. Most of them will claim that they are certified, based on their procedures. But then you have to look at the details of the certification organization that reviews the process and underwrites -- they do field inspections and so on, making sure that everything is on par based on what the companies say, that they are conforming to the requirements of the certification aspects.
Senator Oh: Any comment?
Mr. Bourque: No, I’m not an expert in the area.
Senator Oh: Thank you again.
The Acting Chair: You did mention though, Dr. Bourque, on the whole question of how to optimize carbon sequestration, that you had a tool to do that. Did you not? The question was how to quantify growth and yield.
Yesterday we had some private woodlot owners appearing before us, and one group was from New Brunswick. They said it was very difficult to obtain baseline data on carbon sequestration and on their lots. How do you see it?
Mr. Bourque: Well, the procedure that I am referring to actually wasn’t designed by me. It was designed by our students. It was done in a practicum course and the exercise required them to go through the regular forest management tools and incorporate information that was supplied to them to determine what the impact of climate change would be in terms of forest growth. So they came up with a method that is very simple to use.
Since that time, several scientific papers have been written on that and it has been taken up by other professors where they are applying the methodology, for example, for a specific licence in New Brunswick. I think it has been done once or twice as part of the licencee's general operation and wood supply management.
In terms of approaches, I work very closely with an engineer. He likes to keep things simple. I tend to look at issues a bit more on the complex level. But he likes to keep things simple, such that it can be brought down to the individuals, to the forest companies, and it really is a method that the students were able to bring into their regular wood supply analysis, applying simple correction factors to existing growth and yield projections to account for the effects climate change.
Those are the types of things we do, and the students are a great help when it comes to that type of work.
The Acting Chair: So, then, it is possible to do an inventory of the carbon sequestration in a wood lot?
Mr. Bourque: Yes. In fact, NRCan, through Werner Kurz, for example, has created an ecosystem-based model that looks at this accounting. So, that is already available, and he has applied it across Canada and to specific provinces or parts of provinces. That is already there.
The Acting Chair: I guess it is a question of knowledge sharing, once again, where that inventory of data can be accessed and people can have access to it.
Mr. Bourque: Yes, that’s right.
The Acting Chair: Dr. Arp, do you have a comment?
Mr. Arp: Part of that carbon sequestration is also knowing what is in the soil and that requires the woodland owner know what kind of soils he or she has, and they would have to do an investigation. Even if they had the map that I spoke of, it would need to be verified within their specific property. Then you base the carbon sequestration on very good information about, at least, what is in the ground and you couple that with your growth and yield estimation, which basically Charles’ tools can help with.
The Acting Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Bourque: One aspect in terms of regular forest management is that if you look at one of the diagrams I provide in the write-up, forest managers tend to use average conditions when, in fact, a lot of the variability you see can be viewed as a result of variation in landscape position. So, I think there is an ability to bring in some of the information that Dr. Arp talks about and refine these estimates.
Senator Oh: This year we had tremendous forest fires out west. How does that affect climate change, and how long would it take to bring it back enough for carbon control?
Mr. Arp: Well, it takes a forest a generation to recover. Generally, forests recover quite nicely after a fire. It’s actually amazing. Within 10 years you have very strong undergrowth. A lot of carbon sequestration occurs, particularly in the first years, because all the photosynthesis remains in the wood, the foliage and the litter. So the carbon-loss footprint recovers to some extent very quickly in most of our recovering forests unless it is a very intense fire where the seeds and the roots are also destroyed totally. I’m not sure to what extent that happened last year in the Fort McMurray area. Some of it was devastatingly strong. I don’t have information on that. The recovery depends on the intensity of the fire.
Senator Oh: Yes. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: I’m not sure if I’m asking this question of the right people, but I will ask it and you can tell me if it’s not a part of your repertoire.
I know that the Council of Ministers set up a task force on looking at a framework for the impact of climate change on the forestry sector. Many recommendations came out. There were guidelines. Do you know if those guidelines have been adopted by the forestry sector?
Mr. Arp: I wouldn’t know anything about it. I have not seen them and have not had a discussion about that, but I could ask.
Mr. Bourque: I am pretty well in the same position as Dr. Arp, but one thing I can say is that New Brunswick for a long time would not account for climate change. For example, New Brunswick just had a select committee on climate change last year and since that time, because of the commitment of New Brunswick, there has been more activity, but in terms of Canada, I have no idea.
The Acting Chair: I think this was a task force that was set up by the forestry ministers in each of the provinces.
Mr. Bourque: Yes. I am starting to see more activity, and I think the last thing I heard is that they needed to have something in place, a plan, in 30 months. It is coming up shortly.
The Acting Chair: Exactly. I think our analysts are giving me some information on that.
While we are just looking at that information, I was chatting to one of your colleagues who said that it’s very well to speak about the future as we move forward and of the new graduates that will be coming out with new information. But how do we get down to the grass roots level and make sure that the information you have will be used at the grass roots level?
Mr. Bourque: The workshop I mentioned earlier that we had last year was trying to do some of that. Bringing the practitioner and using the tools so they could see what the outcomes are. There was a transfer of knowledge and the knowledge was contained in those models, which they can take apart and see what is in there and decide if that is what they want or they want something better.
The Acting Chair: I did find that particular group, and besides that, it said that in January of last year the University of New Brunswick, in partnership with the New Brunswick Business Council, organized a symposium on carbon pricing. This symposium gathered stakeholders from different groups. I was wondering if you knew what the findings were.
Mr. Bourque: Unfortunately, I wasn’t at that meeting.
Mr. Arp: But in order to do what we are doing, we are paying very close attention to what we are doing and what our partners do with this. So carbon pricing is for us a situation kind of outside of our domain. We can certainly help with some insight on that. But to have the whole cycle of carbon cycling accounting system, that really requires other experts.
The Acting Chair: I realize that. But the information that you’ve given us is very valuable and really helps us understand the effects climate change is having and what we can do to put forward strategies to mitigate and to better adapt. I think that is what you have given us. You have explained it precisely in a comprehensive way with your PowerPoint presentations.
Mr. Bourque: Just another comment. We recognize the importance of one question I remember reading from the material that the clerk circulated relating to who would benefit and who would be at a disadvantage. When I start thinking about that, I don’t think we know. I think the idea is that we need to do these types of inventories that we talked about and then try to do an economic analysis, for which we have expertise not from my side, but certainly from my colleague’s side.
But the main problem with that is the lack of growth and yield curves accounting for the effects of climate change that are required to be able to say something about who would benefit and who would be at a disadvantage.
The Acting Chair: Senator Gagné?
Senator Gagné: Are you involved in designing policy?
Mr. Arp: Designing policy?
Senator Gagné: Or influencing it?
Mr. Arp: Yes, to some extent the wet areas mapping process is already getting into the regulatory process in Alberta and also will take root in New Brunswick. A week ago we had a meeting with the regional directors for planning in terms of apprising them of this information. For some of them it was the first time they’ve seen that. Other directors have seen it and asked us to speak to them. Basically, they find this very informative.
Once we have a comprehensive wet areas map across the provinces there will be policy formulations around that. So, we can only make suggestions. The policymakers, of course, have to be informed on what it means and maybe they can make the decisions.
But basically, and this is the funny thing that is almost scary, this mapping deals with real estate insurance business and real contractual issues that we basically don’t want to get into because we are getting into systems where people have issues with each other. The map could say, “Well, you bought this piece of land and you didn’t tell me it was flooded, or would be flooding,” or the other way around. “You told me this area is subject to flood and we have never seen a flood.” Right? You get into all kinds of policy issues at that point. So, we have to formulate in such a way that it interfaces correctly without causing this kind of harm and that is a challenge.
Mr. Bourque: In terms of some of that, the Climate Change Secretariat of New Brunswick recognizes the need to bring the results and models that I work on, and that Paul Arp works on, to the user. That is what they hope to get because they understand that climate change is happening and we need to address it quickly.
The Acting Chair: Dr. Arp, did you wish to add anything?
Mr. Arp: I envy you not in your task in dealing with this very complicated issue, in bringing up policy that is good across Canada, because there are so many different regions and expectations that need to be addressed and carefully considered in such a way as you can actually make it work, in such a way that is a win-win for people. If it is not win-win, it will not work. But to make it win-win you need to have really good ideas and people who can support those ideas, not over a year, but over a long term, like Charles and me.
The Acting Chair: Thank you for that. That is why we’re here consulting and listening.
Mr. Bourque: Senator Doyle had said he would keep his questions until the end.
Senator Doyle: Well, actually the question I was going to ask my colleague has asked. I was wondering about government policy both at the federal and the provincial level and whether or not their policies are ever examined. Do your studies take you into examining these policies and if the policies go far enough to encourage and support the reduction of GHGs and more important if the funding mechanisms are in place by government to address these concerns?
There you go. Chew on that.
Mr. Arp: Well, the answer to that is the uptake you get because a good policy has great uptake. A bad policy has very little uptake, or a lot of pushback. Sometimes you have a good policy that requires pushback to get into the win-win situation. That’s very vague an answer, but what can I say?
Senator Doyle: No, true.
Mr. Bourque: I look at some of the work that I have done. I started in 2008 with some of this species change. I started with Nova Scotia. The Government of Nova Scotia after that apparently had meetings with the forest industry. I think it relates to some of the comments that Dr. Arp made. They didn’t believe the models, or at least some, not necessarily all, the models should be used at this point. That was in 2008. So, even though they put a lot of money in terms of getting the output that I provided, they put the results aside.
Then in 2010, I was asked by P.E.I. to do the same thing. But P.E.I. comes from a different perspective. They come more from an ecological conservation perspective. They’re not harvesters. The Island is just too small. They cut an occasional tree here and there, but not to the level we see as in New Brunswick or in Nova Scotia and they tend to be much more favourable to the work I provided.
Then in 2015, New Brunswick asked me to do this same type of study and now they’re looking at it more, given that the political climate has changed for them, in terms of the need to do this type of work because of federal requirements. We will see what happens. But so far it has been positive with the need of DNR, for example, to start considering climate change in their wood supply analysis.
Senator Doyle: Thank you so much.
The Acting Chair: Well, on behalf of the committee, Dr. Arp, Dr. Bourque, thank you so much for sharing your experience and your expertise with us. Thank you for leaving us with very thorough presentations that we can think about. We can reflect and hopefully come forward with good recommendations for all of the country, recognizing the specificity of every region.
On behalf of the committee, thank you very much.
(The committee adjourned.)