Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 10 - Evidence, February 25, 2003 - Morning meeting
EDMONTON, Tuesday, February 25, 2003
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at
8:34 a.m. to examine and report on the impact of climate change on Canada's
agriculture, forests and rural communities and the potential adaptation options
focusing on primary production, practices, technologies, ecosystems and other
Senator Donald H. Oliver (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: I am pleased to welcome everyone here to the hearing of
the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry in Edmonton.
During the course of our last study, which was called ``Farmers at Risk,''
the committee found environmental stresses to be such a pressing issue in
agriculture and in rural Canada that it decided to undertake a comprehensive
study on the effects of climate change in agriculture.
The committee is examining the expected effects of climate change on Canadian
agriculture, forests, and rural communities. More importantly, it will consider
how these sectors can adapt to the expected climate changes.
The committee is required to report before the end of 2003, but we expect to
have our report by June or, at the very, very latest, July of 2003.
During our trip in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, we will hear
from scientists, farmers, and many other interested groups on our topic,
``Adaptation to Climate Change.''
I am happy that we are in Alberta today, because Alberta has aspects of all
three things we are studying: agriculture, forestry, and issues of rural
The study of climate change must reflect both the values and diversity of our
country. We need a made-in-Canada plan to resolve issues of adaptation, and it
must be based on principles of innovation and competitiveness.
Today, I wish to also welcome to our committee Senator Thelma Chalifoux from
Alberta. I must say that since Senator Chalifoux has come to Ottawa, she has
brought a lot of positive ideas and has been a very strong representative of
this province. So Alberta should be proud of the contribution she continues to
The other senator with us today for the first time, because he was hung up
because of the snow and problems, is Senator Laurier LaPierre, a well-known
Canadian who brings creative and innovative ideas to the whole concept of
agriculture and forestry.
We are now ready to start this morning's program. I am pleased to welcome
officials from Natural Resources Canada. I understand that there has been a
change in the program and Mr. Boyd Case is not here. Mr. Kelvin Hirsch is
sitting in for him.
The floor is yours, Mr. Hirsch.
Mr. Kelvin Hirsch, Forest Research Officer, Northern Forestry Centre,
Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada: Before I begin this
morning, I would like to extend greetings and apologies from Mr. Boyd Case, the
Director General of the Northern Forestry Centre. Unfortunately, Boyd was ill
all last week, has lost his voice, is unable to speak and regrets being unable
to participate today.
Therefore, it is my pleasure to make this presentation on behalf of Mr. Case
and the entire scientific and technical staff at the Northern Forestry Centre.
I am currently a research management advisor at NoFC, and prior to that, I
conducted forest fire research with the Canadian Forest Service, CFS, for 17
I would also like to introduce Dr. Brian Amiro and Mr. Tim Williamson who are
researchers at our centre and have a wide range of knowledge on both the
ecological and socio-economic aspects of climate change in forests. They have
agreed to assist me with any questions that may arise during the discussion
So I would like to draw your attention to the presentation, and I believe you
have a copy in front of you. I would like to begin by expressing our thanks to
the committee for the opportunity to converse with you about forest-relevant
climate change impacts and adaptation research being conducted at the Northern
Based on the notes I have reviewed from previous sessions that you have had,
it is clear that you have heard some excellent presentations on the potential
impacts of climate change and the possible implications for the forest sector
and forest-based communities.
Therefore, I will not go into great detail about the impact side, but
instead, I will focus on the research activities at our centre to illustrate how
we are contributing to both the impacts and adaptation science in support of
sustainable forest management.
The presentation will begin with a few introductory remarks about the
Northern Forestry Centre and the history of our climate change research program.
I will then focus on the impacts and adaptation research currently being
conducted at the centre and some of the key findings. This will be followed by a
short description of the model forest program, and I will finish off with a few
The mission of the Northern Forestry Centre is to conduct research, transfer
knowledge, and coordinate programs that promote environmental stewardship and
the economic competitiveness of Canada's forest sector. The Northern Forestry
Centre was established in 1970 and is one of five CFS research centres across
Canada. Currently we have a staff of approximately 200 individuals, of which
just over half are indeterminate employees.
Our A-base operating funding per scientist averages about $10,000 per year.
Therefore, to achieve our program objectives, a significant amount of funding,
about $4 million per year, is obtained from outside sources, such as other
government departments and collaborative research agreements with our primary
Research is conducted on a wide variety of forest-related topics, including
climate change. The Northern Forestry Centre was one of the first forest
research organizations to initiate a climate change program. This occurred in
1985, long before ``climate change'' was a household phrase.
The current focus of our climate change program has two aspects: first,
looking at carbon accounting, modelling, and mitigation; and second, looking at
climate change impacts and adaptation.
By way of resources, we have 21 full-time equivalents, that is, both
scientists and support staff conducting climate change research. Their operating
budget is in excess of $1 million per year, the majority of which is obtained
from external funding sources. Of these resources, two-thirds of the staff and
about 40 per cent of the funding is targeted towards impacts and adaptation
A key aspect of the success of our climate change program is close
collaboration with researchers from other CFS forestry centres, other government
departments, universities, and other research organizations.
I would now like to speak about the current impacts and adaptation research
activities at the Northern Forestry Centre. Work is being conducted in four main
areas. The first area involves assessing and monitoring change. This includes
investigating the impact of climate change on forest health and productivity,
collecting baseline data on forest productivity over a range of climatic zones,
analyzing changes in forest fire activity across Canada, and monitoring
variations in insect infestation, specifically in the Prairie Provinces.
Climate Change Impacts on the Productivity and Health of Aspen, CIPHA, is an
example of an assessment and monitoring change study. This project involves
detailed measurements at 72 permanent sample plots located across western Canada
to study the effects of climate and forest insects on the growth and survival of
It also allows for the early detection of climate change effects, because
many sites are located at the edge of forest transition zones and, therefore,
will be the first to be affected by changes in the climate.
Two of the early key results of this study are that aspen growth can vary
considerably across the region from year to year, and aspen growth and survival
are lowest when insect outbreaks, in this case, forest tent caterpillar, occur
in conjunction with a severe drought or dry spell. Separately, the two factors
do have an impact, but it is considerably less than when the two events happen
The second area of research at our centre focuses on estimating the future
impacts of climate change. In collaboration with other CFS centres and
universities, we are taking a leading role in projecting future forest fire
activity under a changing climate and the possibility of significant impacts on
key values at risk.
We are also studying the impacts of forests on regional climates, as well as
the effects of climate change on vegetation, particularly species composition,
species shifting, growth and yield, and ultimately, on timber supply.
An example of the potential natural changes in vegetation have been modeled
at our centre by linking future climate data from the Canadian general
circulation model to a dynamic vegetation model known as the integrated
biosphere simulator, IBIS. This is an image of the current model vegetation
cover for Canada. When I move to the next two slides, you will note some major
shifts. In particular, I would ask you to watch this area here in Western
In this slide you can see that by 2040, you can begin to see an increase in
the amount of grassland and open shrub land in the southern boreal forest. The
projections by 2070 suggest an even greater shift in vegetation, which could
significantly reduce the size of the boreal forest. A warmer climate in eastern
Canada, however, could favour higher growth rates associated with the temperate
Please recognize, however, that the present model still has a number of
limitations and uncertainties. For instance, the IBIS model does not presently
incorporate factors such as soil nitrogen, which may be a key limiting factor
that will offset the benefits of increased CO2 and warmer
temperatures. Further research involving other climate models and vegetation
simulators is therefore being conducted in an attempt to reduce the degree of
uncertainty about these projections.
The third area of research at our centre deals with climate change adaptation
strategies. Given that the potential impacts of climate change to the western
boreal forest could be quite severe, our researchers have, over the last few
years, begun to focus more of their effort on finding new and innovative ways to
adapt to such changes.
The three main areas of study include finding new silvicultural options and
innovations, finding approaches to reduce the risk from wildfire, and finding
techniques to minimize the effects of forest pests.
I would now like to give you three adaptation examples. With respect to
reforestation and afforestation opportunities, a comprehensive set of trials has
been established at various locations in western Canada to compare the growth,
survival, form, and wood quality of hybrid poplar clones.
For example, last year 100,000 seedlings were planted in 15 different
locations. Initial results from the concurrent trials for the 12 different
poplar clones tested suggest some minor variation does exist in performance
between these tree species. Also, adequate moisture during the first few weeks
of planting seems to be the most critical to the successful establishment of
The second example of adaptation research deals with proactively preparing
for more forest fire activity in the future. Our researchers have collaborated
with other municipal, provincial, and federal organizations to synthesize the
most recent scientific information into a guidebook that can be used to reduce
the risk from wildfire to homes and communities.
In cooperation with provinces, forest industry, and universities, development
and evaluation of a related concept known as ``FireSmart forest management'' is
also underway. This involves strategically integrating fire and forest-
management activities to reduce the overall flammability of forest landscapes
through actions such as harvest scheduling, cut-block design, reforestation, and
The third example of an adaptation project involves the development of
innovative pest-management techniques to reduce the likelihood and severity of
insect attacks. There are two specific studies. The first found that the use of
BT, a biological control agent, would reduce the stress of white spruce
resulting from spruce budworm outbreaks.
The second study is a major field program in northwestern Alberta that
suggests the intensity and pattern of forest harvesting can significantly reduce
spruce budworm populations. For example, they have found that cut blocks with
jagged edges and 25 per cent removal seems to be the best treatment to limit
spruce budworm outbreak.
The fourth area of impacts and adaptation research at the Northern Forestry
Centre involves the social sciences. We are fortunate to have one of the core
groups of social scientists within the forest sector at our centre. In the
climate change field, work has focussed on the vulnerability and adaptability of
There are three components to this work. The first is determining the level
of understanding the community leaders and the general public have about the
local impacts of climate change. Second, using available information about
forest-dependent communities, it appears possible to identify those communities
that are most vulnerable to climate change. Third, the social science group is
assessing what changes may be needed to current policies and institutions to
promote and/or facilitate adaptation by forest-based communities.
Shifting gears slightly, I was asked to include in my presentation some
comments about the model forest program. The model forest was established in the
early 1990s. There are currently 11 model forests across Canada, including three
in the Prairie Provinces: the Manitoba model forest on the east side of Lake
Winnipeg, the Prince Albert model forest north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan,
and the foothills model forest in the Hinton/Jasper area of western Alberta.
The purpose of the model forest program is to apply and, in some cases,
develop new technologies, systems, approaches, and knowledge regarding
sustainable forest management. The program received significant funding from the
Canadian Forest Service, but each model forest also obtained support and
guidance from a wide range of local stakeholders. Regarding climate change, the
interest in this issue for the model forests has grown considerably in the last
one to two years.
Currently, the prairie-based model forests are involved in projects aimed at
modelling the impact of climate change on growth and yield, measuring and
monitoring the carbon flux from forests, and evaluating the potential
applications of the CFS carbon budget model at the scale of a forest management
The model forest program is completing year one of its third five-year phase.
This phase is very much focused on the application and demonstration of science.
To conclude, the climate change has been a specific focus of research
activities at the Northern Forestry Centre since the mid-1980s. As you are well
aware, many of the future climate scenarios suggest that continental Canada
could be one of the areas most affected by climate change, and this has some
significant implications for the forests of western Canada.
This includes direct influences on the forest itself through increases on
forest fire activity, severity of insect and disease outbreaks, changes and,
most likely, reductions in growth and yield of forest species in western Canada,
potential shifting of vegetation, and increased competition from invasive and
This, in turn, will have implications for the forest sector such as
reductions in timber supply and changes to forest practices, influences on
non-timber forest products and services, increased challenges associated with
the management of protected areas and wilderness, and secondary effects on both
water and air quality. All of this will have subsequent impacts on the viability
and sustainability of forest-based communities.
Therefore, our centre is focusing its impacts and adaptation research efforts
on three areas: reducing the uncertainty regarding the future impacts of climate
change on forests, developing and testing adaptation strategies, and linking our
ecological and social science expertise so that we can address climate change
issues in a comprehensive and integrated manner.
Senator Wiebe: I would like to direct my first remarks to slide 17 and
18, the model forest program. On slide 18, you say that most extreme changes in
climate are expected in the extreme western boreal forest region of Canada.
Since we have started this study, we have heard some impressive presentations
regarding the model forest program. While you have 11 established across Canada
— it works out to 1.1 per province — where the most extreme changes are
going to take effect is in western Canada.
The feeling is that we should be establishing more model forest areas
throughout the western region because, in my mind at least, they seem to be
spread far too thin, and the valuable data that is being learned at these model
forest areas can have quite an impact on how we adapt to the changes in the
future. What is your feeling on that? Are the three in western Canada doing an
adequate job? They are doing an adequate job, but can it be done better by
having more model stations established?
Mr. Hirsch: The model forest program is unique in that it is beginning
to expand, so the three model forests that we see are now moving beyond their
physical boundaries to include areas of different ecoregions in the three
For instance, in Manitoba, even though the original model forest was on the
east side of Lake Winnipeg, they have now incorporated the Duck Mountain,
Porcupine Hills region of western Manitoba. As well, the foothills model forest
in western Alberta is now doing studies in other parts of Alberta as well.
So they are trying to, again, take the science from their particular study
area and move it beyond. I believe that the three we have now are working well
and transferring information and getting research on the ground. By working in
collaboration with other companies and stakeholders, that information is
spreading. So I would say they are doing a good job, and represent well the
differences across the three Prairie Provinces.
Senator Wiebe: That is good to hear. You, of course, would have a much
better idea on that effectiveness than most of us would.
The majority of the work so far that has been done regarding the mitigation
of climate change and also the small amount of work that has been done on how we
are going to adapt is partly because we do not have the knowledge yet as to how
we are going to adapt.
We must somehow involve the general public in the adaptation, because they,
in the long term, are going to be the ones that are going to be putting the
pressure on the elected representatives to initiate the change as required. In
your mind, what kind of incentives should we, as policy-makers, be looking at to
develop policy that would involve more of the general public in the climate
change and adaptation procedures?
Part of the reason why I say this is in the last couple of years, all the
debate and discussion has been around Kyoto and how we are going to resolve that
problem. If we start burning ethanol and things like this, the problem is going
to go away; we have solved it.
What the scientists have told us, of course, is that even if every country in
the world decided to go along with Kyoto, the damage has already been done, that
we may slow down that rapid change, and that really we have to start
concentrating on adaptation. So in your gentlemen's minds, how is the best way
to get the general public involved in that discussion?
Mr. Hirsch: Senator, I am going to ask Mr. Tim Williamson, who is a
social scientist, to address that question.
Mr. Tim Williamson, Sustainable Development Economist, Northern Forestry
Centre, Canadian Forest Service: I think maybe one of the big questions with
the public is there is a lot of uncertainty and confusion about the issue and
the long-term impacts, as you have noted. Maybe an important thing to do is to
address that issue, those programs of awareness and getting into communities and
having people in those communities involved and identifying the problems.
There are various kinds of frameworks for doing that, various kinds of
risk-assessment frameworks. Greg McKinnon with the Canadian Climate Impacts and
Adaptation Research Network, C-CIARN, will discuss some of the issues about
increasing awareness among people in communities and increasing the level of
knowledge and understanding among the people in the communities so they are in a
better position to begin thinking about planning and preparing for climate
change and getting ready to adapt.
Senator Wiebe: As you know, even with all its warts, we still have the
best system of government anywhere in the world. The problem is, if we leave it
to our elected representatives to spread that message, you are going to have two
or three different positions on how severe or not severe that is.
So to bring that dialogue to the community, would it be better for
individuals such as yourselves or other people who are knowledgeable in the
industry to present that message to our communities rather than the various
groups that will have diverging views on the problem?
Mr. Williamson: I think there is a strong role for linking the
research community with practitioners and stakeholders at a community level.
There is a strong sense that the science is there and the capability is there to
start looking at local- level impacts. It is a question of getting resources
into play so we can start focusing and bringing that larger level research down
to a community level and making the link with people in communities.
Senator Wiebe: One of the keys is financial resources, is it not?
Senator Hubley: My first question is, who owns the forest? How is it
broken down between private and public?
Mr. Hirsch: The vast majority of forest in Canada is Crown land, and
it is managed by the provincial governments and/or the territorial governments.
They have primary responsibility.
There are areas that would grow trees, which could be private lands. There
are private woodlots, but they are a small portion of forest in western Canada.
In eastern Canada, the Atlantic Provinces, there are more private woodlots than
out here in western Canada, but the vast majority of Canada's total forest is
Senator Hubley: Then I would like to move to forest management for a
moment. We do not experience many severe forest fires, but we do watch when the
forest fire season hits the western provinces. In your adaptation strategies,
what sort of management practices are you introducing to lessen, perhaps, the
impact of forest fires now? How do you handle the situation after a severe
forest fire? Is there any change in how that is going to be handled in the
Mr. Hirsch: I will address that one, and maybe Brian can add some
One thing we have found is that traditional approaches to forest fire
suppression that you see on television and that we know about are water bombers,
helicopters and initial attack crews. Those traditional approaches to fire
suppression are reaching their limit of physical effectiveness.
So we have said you can buy more resources, but there is diminishing marginal
returns. You have to think smarter, and that is where the term ``FireSmart''
came from. Over the next 50 years, a large portion of the boreal forest, or most
of Canada's forests, will be harvested and replanted, and we are wondering if
there are ways to do that in a strategic manner that can reduce the
Because we know certain forest species are more flammable than others — and
we are not talking about doing a widespread conversion of the entire forest —
we are looking at particular points on the landscape so that you can reduce the
rate of spread and intensity of forest fires. Also, we are looking at those
points where you can significantly improve the effectiveness of our current
We have done research with some companies, and they are beginning to
implement these programs. So it can go from simple techniques of how they design
their cut blocks and where they determine their cut at certain times, to the
type of species they replant.
It is the idea of planning ahead and being proactive rather than simply
reacting to fire, and realizing that fire is a natural part of the ecosystem. It
is there. It needs to be there for many species to maintain forest health, but
you need to strike a balance between these socio-economic impacts and the
ecological benefits of fire.
We are doing a proactive approach with forest companies, but also
forest-based communities can take actions to protect themselves. In our opinion,
there should be very, very few lost homes from forest fires, because you can
take actions ahead of time to prevent those kinds of losses.
Mr. Brian D. Amiro, Research Scientist, Northern Forestry Centre, Canadian
Forest Service: I would just like to add a couple of things. One specific
way of adapting is salvaging burnt wood, as far as the timber companies go. That
is something we have seen increase over the last ten years. It is widespread
through Quebec, Ontario, and the Prairie Provinces.
Of course, it mostly relates to fires that burn in the south where we have
the road network already, but it does help to alleviate some of those impacts.
So we have seen companies moving more towards trying to adjust to those changes
in the land base.
The other point, which Kelvin was alluding to, is that when we think about
fire, we think about ignitions. What causes the fire? About a third of our fires
are caused by lightning. Even though we do the Smokey the Bear routine, we still
have a lot of these lightning fires. They burn about 85 per cent of the area. So
they are the big ones.
Then we have fire weather, which is important. We think the climate change
issue, of course, is just making things worse, which is what we are worried
about. So we cannot do a lot about ignition, probably; weather is going to get
worse. What we have been talking about is modifying the fuel. Fire still needs
fuel to burn, and we think we can do fuel modifications to adapt to what those
potential impacts are going to be, or lessen the impacts, at least.
Senator Hubley: How important is accurate weather forecasting going to
be in your work?
Mr. Amiro: The Canadian Forest Service has a national map on the Web
site that gives fire weather indices that show what the risk is every day.
The provinces also do — every agency does that for their own area. So we
have different levels in Canada, and it is straight public knowledge done every
day. Forecasts are good. We know when the risks are there. People are prepared.
It is just a matter of whether something happens — lots of lightning is caused
and comes through there — and how many fires start maybe that day. In Alberta,
on some days, you can have 10,000 lightning hits. It is amazing how many
lightning hits are out there.
The Chairman: In one day?
Mr. Amiro: In one day, in one storm. The lightning is just everywhere
out there. Of course, there is rain with most of that lightning, so we do not
get the fire starting, but we get dry lightning. There is lots of potential for
Senator Hubley: The information on your weather comes from where?
Mr. Amiro: The Meteorological Service of Canada weather stations. We
also have supplementary stations operated by the agencies. Every province has
its own additional weather stations that fill in all the gaps. So it is a
Senator LaPierre: No one will honour me by saying that I know much
about agriculture and forestry. The only reason that I wanted to be on this
committee is because I am a historian. I know a lot about rural communities
because our country was rural for such a long time in its history. My interest
is in rural communities.
So therefore, Professor Williamson, I was interested in the merging of the
social sciences and the humanities and all of these together in a kind of
interdisciplinary matter. I even have a plan to use about 300 young people from
universities to travel the length and breadth of the country to speak to
communities about these matters and help them to get it out of their system what
it is that they need to know. However, that is another matter.
I am interested in your FireSmart. Is that published?
Mr. Hirsch: Yes.
Senator LaPierre: Is it possible for the Chairman to have copies,
because I think that would be very useful?
The Chairman: Is that possible?
Mr. Hirsch: I do not have a copy with me today, but we can certainly
make it available, possibly even by the end of the day.
The Chairman: That would be wonderful.
I have two quick questions. You said that one of the things you are doing now
is salvaging burnt wood, and I would like you to tell me more about that. If the
fire has taken only a little bit of the bark, you can use the rest of the wood
as lumber or timber or pulpwood or something like that?
Second, no one has ever talked about controlled burns, and since you are fire
experts, I would like you to tell me a little bit about it. I do know that the
Americans do it in their national parks all the time for several reasons. I
would like you to speak about those two things, if you could please.
Mr. Amiro: Regarding the salvage, first of all, you are right. Most
fires in Canada in the boreal zone are what we call crown fires. They burn all
the fine material and the forest floor and the crowns of the canopies, but they
leave the trunk of the trees behind, so the amount of char is actually
superficial on most of those trees.
We also get fires that underburn, that do not actually char any of the tree.
That is pretty rare in most of Canada. This makes the wood usable. However, the
wood is only usable, typically, for one to two years, sometimes three years,
largely because insects come in quickly. We have these insects that follow fires
around, and they just burrow through it and make the quality go down.
So timber companies are using it, but generally it is a lower quality. There
are a lot of economic issues associated with it as far as what they will pay for
it, and also, it has to be someplace where the road network is. I do not know
what percentage of our harvesting today is on burnt land. It really depends on
where those fires occur. Sometimes in the south we can get a large fire, 100,000
hectares, in an area that they are actively harvesting, taking lumber out right
now, and they will salvage that.
The Chairman: Is there much difference between hardwoods and
softwoods? Do the softwoods burn farther and faster? Are the woods that you can
harvest mostly hardwoods?
Mr. Amiro: Both can be salvaged, but the softwoods burn at a higher
intensity, so a lot more material is lost. As far as the salvage situation goes,
except for dead, standing trees, the live trees that were there are basically
The Chairman: Controlled burns?
Mr. Amiro: The other issue is controlled burns. The controlled burn
program is viable in most national parks in Canada. We have active controlled
burning programs in the western mountain parks and also parks across the Prairie
Provinces, for example, Prince Albert National Park and Riding Mountain National
Park, in Manitoba.
Those are usually done for ecosystem management. They change the mosaic on
the landscape, largely because wild fires have been suppressed in national parks
over the last 100 years. We are trying to get fire back into those national
parks and change that landscape so it will change the fuel continuity. It has
lots of implications for things like insects. There are few prescribed burns
scheduled outside of national parks in Canada right now, a few provincial parks,
but it is not widely used on the bigger land base.
The Chairman: Do you think it is going to change and it will be used
more in the future, particularly with climate change causing more threats?
Mr. Amiro: It is always a compromise with prescribed burning. Most
harvesting companies would rather do fuel management using harvesting as opposed
to using burning. So it would be a lot of education, a lot of changes in our
culture, before we would actually get to the point where widespread prescribed
fires would have much of an impact.
The Chairman: Thanks for a most excellent presentation, and we look
forward to receiving your books.
We would now like to call Carol Patterson from Kalahari Management Inc.
Ms. Carol Patterson, President, Kalahari Management Inc.: I confess I
am not a scientist, and I am not an expert on climate change, but I am an expert
on ecotourism, which is what I have been asked to speak on today. I welcome the
opportunity to talk about it, because it is relevant to climate change.
Just so you know a little bit about my background, I am an ecotourism
consultant and a writer. I have been in the industry for over 12 years. When I
started people thought I was an eco-terrorism consultant, not an ecotourism
consultant. So last year was the International Year of Ecotourism, which was a
validation that I am not insane and that we really do have a future as Canadians
I do numerous workshops. I do a lot of work with communities across North
America, similar to the ones we heard the previous speakers talk about. These
communities are losing their economic base in terms of mining or forestry or
agriculture, and they are turning toward nature tourism as another economic
opportunity. So I work with these communities to try and identify the
opportunities and how to develop businesses and destinations from those assets.
I have written the book called The Business of Ecotourism, which is in
its second printing. I have done a teacher's edition. I am working on a manual
for The Nature Conservancy for business planning and ecotourism in their Central
and South American operations. I publish a quarterly newsletter on ecotourism
management, which is a business-to- business publication that highlights
developments in the industry at any current time.
That is available all on-line, not the book, but the newsletter, and my Web
site is on my handout there, if you want to follow up on that.
Many people are not familiar with the term, ecotourism, or there is much
confusion as to what it means. There are many, many different definitions, and
there is no one accepted definition. In case you have not come across the term
before, I would suggest to you that it is a form of tourism that promotes
conversation of the natural environment in which it occurs.
It also promotes the economic and social well being of the host community
where the travel experience occurs, and it provides a learning experience for
the traveller. So it is a very ambitious form of tourism. Some would question
how successful it has been, but we are seeing a lot more interest in it and a
lot more development. I have been trying to limit my comments, so I will focus
mainly on Alberta, which does not have a well-developed ecotourism industry at
this point, but Canada as a nation certainly has potential in this area.
To move out of climate change, I was talking to my father, who lives in
Regina, on the weekend about my presentation, and his comment was he is all for
climate change if it will make the weather get better. He is just teasing, but
he has lived in Saskatchewan for 81 years, and he has noticed a definite change
in climate, and many of our tourism operators have as well. Like my father, they
are not clamouring for more. Many of them wish things would improve.
We are finding that climate change is impacting most forms of nature tourism,
not always for the best. We are finding wildlife populations not where we want
them to be. We are noticing that we are having catastrophic events, which causes
us great concern from a risk-management perspective. It has gotten to the point
where now we are looking at some of our leading organizations, in this case, the
World Tourism Organization, which is convening a conference on this topic in
Tunisia this spring, in April.
The Chairman: Carol, could I just say there are people who are
translating from English to French, and there are people who are transcribing.
If you could slow down just a little bit, it will make it a lot easier for them,
because we want to have an accurate record of what you are saying. There is no
great rush. We are not going to cut you off.
Ms. Patterson: Okay. I have a tendency to hurry. There will be a
conference held this spring, which, as I said, is a sign that this is becoming
an issue of concern for many people around the world, not just for ecotourism,
but for other forms of tourism as well.
The next slide would show that there are climate changes affecting operators.
One of the first ones that maybe comes to mind is the lack of snow, and as
Canadians, one of the things that defines us is our winter experience. What we
are finding is that, even though we have had very cold weather recently, our
winters are not what they used to be.
For example, dog sled operators require cold weather and snow to operate.
There are operators in the northern part of this province that have had problems
having enough snow to operate their business. You need certain temperatures so
the dogs do not overheat, but you also need snow to run the sleds and to provide
that perception, because it is not just a matter of actually moving the sled.
You want the visitor to have that experience of the Canadian winter and the
Canadian North. So we are finding that lack of snow is affecting these types of
Conversely, in the summer we have a lack of water. So activities that are
dependent on water runoff, say, whitewater kayaking or whitewater rafting, have
insufficient water to perform those activities, or they may have sufficient, but
not as long as they had in the past. Where they were able to run rivers for
three months, they are running them for only one month. So they are finding they
have less water than they had in the past.
This varies across the province. I am making generalizations. People in the
north seem to be more impacted than those in, say, the Rockies and the
Kananaskis Country and the Bragg Creek area.
We are also finding that the fire hazard and problems from forest fires are
impacting recreation as well. When there are fire hazards, you have two things:
sometimes an area is closed, where you are not physically able to go into it,
which we found in Kananaskis Country two years back when the whole area was
evacuated. Tour operators lost money because they were offering tours or had
groups in the area that had to be evacuated or could not go in.
Just as the senator commented about how in the East you monitor the forest
fire conditions out West, we found, in a study by the Outdoor Recreation Council
in 2000, that hiking rates for the continent were down, which is contrary to
what we would expect, because we are becoming more active and more interested in
these outdoor experiences. The main explanation for it was the effect of the
large fires that occurred in 2000, where it felt like much of the West was
Again, it is not necessarily the actual risk. When we talk about tourism, a
lot of times it is the perception. People will not come to the area if they feel
that they are in danger or that they are not going to have the type of
experience they want.
People going for an ecotourism experience are looking for natural areas. They
are looking for scenic beauty. They are looking for a chance to get away from
it. Choking in dust or smoke is not considered a good thing, so it will have a
We find, too, that we are getting unseasonable weather conditions, and so it
makes it very unpredictable. The lead- time for many tour operators, the bigger
ones especially, may be 18 to 24 months where they develop a tour and put it out
in a brochure. So you hope that if you are offering snowshoeing in January, you
will have snow come January, or cross-country skiing. What we are finding,
especially for operators around this southern area of the province, is they
cannot count on that anymore.
When I talked to one operator before I made this presentation, she said, ``I
get my best snow in April and May,'' which is when she wants to do the hiking,
or when people have decided that is not what they want to do. The best hiking
can be in January. Sometimes we have had droughts that extend into the fall,
which make hiking when you would normally be skiing.
So what you find is the spring wild flower hike done in snow, the summer wild
flower hike done in snow, the Labour Day weekend done in snow, and unseasonable
conditions which make it hard to undertake the activity. Sometimes you can
change locations. Sometimes you can have people bring their snowshoes instead of
their skis, or their hiking boots instead of their snowshoes, but it can be a
challenge, especially if we are selling into foreign markets.
If you sell into the Japanese or the German markets, they are concerned that
what you advertise is what you deliver, and so there can be legal liability
issues. If you promise a certain activity, and you do not deliver, it can lead
We also find that, with the climate change, we are seeing impacts on
wildlife. Alberta is not known as a wildlife- watching destination per se. You
would probably find that more, say, in the Churchill area in Manitoba or the
whale watching off the B.C. coast, but what we are finding is animals and birds
are not where you expect them to be, in the numbers that you would expect to see
I worked on a project last winter for communities in Arkansas where they are
the duck-hunting capital of the world, but the ducks are not leaving Canada.
Where it is warm, they are stopping on their migration routes and not reaching
down that far. The communities are looking at developing birdwatching as an
option, because their hunting tourism is falling off.
So what we are finding is situations like that, where the wildlife is either
not where we expect it, or in shorter numbers. That is causing concern for some
of our operators.
As an aside, I know that you are looking carefully at the agricultural
industry. That also impacts on some of the ecotourism operators, the use of
horses. Not many ecotourism operators use the horse itself as transportation,
but many of them use it as a way to get equipment, water and whatever, into
their lodges. So the fact that hay prices are doubling has an impact on their
costs in terms of what they are paying.
What are people doing to adapt to this? People that survive in the ecotourism
industry are creative. You need to be able to think on your feet at the best of
times, but for the ones that are dealing with climate change, those that have
diversity tend to do the best, those that have a diverse product line or
different locations. If I offer hiking, I can go to K Country one weekend, or if
that is not going to work, to Bragg Creek or to Drumheller or something like
that. I substitute a different activity, and that gives me some flexibility in
terms of what I am doing.
Also, some organizations that have different flexibility in terms of their
client base have more options. For somebody who is offering, say, a package for
a corporate market, if they cannot do igloo building, they can probably do a
ropes course to do some sort of team-building activity. However, if you are a
whitewater raft operator or you are a dog sled operator and that is all you
offer, you are in bad shape, because you may not have the same flexibility.
Some operators that have not got the diversity of product are trying to add
interpretation. One rafting company that I know tries to offer games now or more
interpretation of the landscape. Where it used to be more the thrills of the
water as you would go down the river, now they are offering more interpretation
or water fights, or something like that, to try and compensate for the fact that
the water levels are not where they would be traditionally.
Sometimes people are operating for a shorter season. They may start a month
later or finish a month sooner. They may hire their staff later and do their
training later in the season, so it results in less economic activity for the
We are, as an industry, very safety conscious, but there is more emphasis on
safety planning because we can see very unusual weather conditions — a freak
flood or, as we saw recently, unfortunately, large avalanches. Those types of
things mean that you have to be well prepared in terms of your safety
management. That is another adaptation.
Some operators have a second income. They may do something else while they
wait out the change. I know of one operator in the Cold Lake area running dog
sleds. He kept his kennel for two years waiting for better weather, better snow.
Eventually, he went out of business. He is now fighting forest fires. His kennel
was not sustainable with the weather conditions he was facing in that situation.
Sometimes people increase their prices if they have additional costs as a
result of this, like I say, the hay for horses. Some of them will eventually
take advantage of the experiences and offer a different experience. I have not
yet seen the drought and pestilence tour offered, but given the imagination I
have seen in many of our tourism operators, I would not be surprised to see a
summer grasshopper festival spring up, or something along those lines.
A longer-term impact that you may see may be a move to buy water. I know that
there are cases in other countries where people have bought water to provide a
whitewater experience. If we look at Australia, the whitewater rafting companies
there spend $1 million a year to purchase water that would otherwise have been
used for electricity generation.
In West Virginia, some tour operators partner with some of the hydro
companies. The Tennessee water authority charges $2.50 a head to make up for the
revenue that was lost for hydroelectricity by offering it to the recreationists
Some of the tour operators I talked to did say, long term, they may not be
around. They say those that have diversity and are able to come up with new
ideas may be able to compensate in some ways. Others recognize that, in the long
term, they may not be around, which leads to my conclusions.
As I mentioned before, tourism is very dynamic. The people that survive are
used to dealing with change. Climate change is probably seen as one more hazard
or one challenge that they will have to deal with. Unfortunately, many of them
said they thought — and this is may be a bit pessimistic — that global
political conditions or our insurance changes in Canada will get them first
before the climate change does.
They were more concerned about insurance, some of the changes occurring with
the Marine Liability Act that threaten their survival. One tour operator in the
Grand Cache area said that a year ago there were 10 insurance companies in
Canada offering insurance for their line of business. Now there are two, and it
is getting to be very expensive and very difficult to get insurance.
So climate change is a threat, but they find some of these others more
immediate and more frightening, especially as we face possible war. Those with
the greatest amount of diversity are best suited to survive. Some operators had
not thought about this issue until I asked them about it, but those that are
thinking about it acknowledge that they will either have to come up with some
changes, or long term, they may not be around. Some of them are noticing that
they are getting one normal year out of five, which is not enough for many of
them to build a business.
Ecotourism, for many of these areas, is an industry of small business. Often,
it is an industry of rural business, so it tends to be seasonal. It is a tough
way to make a living, although, as we say, it is a lifestyle and a very
rewarding one, but it does have an impact.
Senator Chalifoux: A lot of people do not realize the ecotourism
economic impact that it has on this whole thing. You brought that forward very,
very well with an excellent presentation, and I would like to thank you for
I have a couple of questions. Number 1 is your World Tourism Organization:
that conference affects the whole world, does it, when you discuss the climate
Ms. Patterson: What the World Tourism Organization does, its
influence, is mainly with the policy makers. We have the tour operators, which
tend to be smaller business when we talk ecotourism, not tourism in general. The
World Tourism Organization has more influence with the policy-makers at
government level, with the World Bank, with some of the other non-profit
organizations like the World Wildlife Fund.
Those types of organizations would be discussing at a policy or philosophical
level. The individual operator may not care as much, but it does have a
trickle-down effect as legislators and decision-makers discuss these issues and
find out, just as you are, what can be done or what is occurring.
Senator Chalifoux: Another thing, too, is — talking about economic
impacts with global warming and climate change, especially here in western
Canada and in Alberta — I think you realize and you have understood, that
western Canada is going to be very seriously affected. It has been already. You
know, our Snow Goose Festival is not on this year. They totally cancelled it
because the geese did not show up, and that is what is happening out here.
I would like to know exactly what your businesses are doing in adapting. I
understand that they are doing interpretive things, but when I want to go
whitewater rafting, I am not going to go to an interpretive centre because there
is no whitewater rafting. Are they being a little more creative in developing
Ms. Patterson: Many of them are not on the second round. A lot of them
are still getting into the industry, so they are developing, as you mentioned,
the Snow Goose Festival, which is a perfect example of how many small
communities rally around migration phenomena or a species that is unique. It can
be very effective in terms of putting them on the map and creating awareness for
It is a challenge because you can create a whole experience, but you need
something to work with. On the good side, some people have told me that only 50
per cent of the people that come to many of these festivals come for the actual
migration. The other 50 per cent come to eat and to shop and to hang out and
have fun with their friends or their family. So you can do a lot with a little,
but you need a little to start with.
One other trend that has some promise is that one of the biggest,
fastest-growing areas in ecotourism is insect watching.
The Chairman: Are you serious?
Ms. Patterson: Yes, I am, but it does not mean the mosquitoes of
Winnipeg. People become interested in large mammals, gateway species. If you
look at a flock of Snow Geese, you do not have to be an expert. They are easy to
see. They are white. When you look at one bird and you look at the next hundred
or thousand birds, they are all Snow Geese, so it is something that allows
people entry into this whole field.
People start with something like a Snow Goose Festival, and then they get
into the warblers, the dreaded warblers, difficult species, but they are moving
now into insects, primarily dragonflies and butterflies.
There are some large festivals. Texas is leading the way in terms of nature
tourism. They have got some excellent programs. So I joke about the grasshopper
festival, but you are limited only by your imagination. You do have to have
something to work with, but not as much as you might think. You do not have to
have hundreds of caribou going by. That would be great, but you can work with
something on a smaller scale.
Communities that are struggling need support. That is where people like me
come in, that cross-fertilization of ideas — do not reinvent the wheel. Think
of things that other places have tried and what can be done, and that is where
programs, economic-development activities, can be very helpful, to give those
communities as much help as you possibly can. I am not sure what it is going to
look like 50 years out, but five years out, there are probably things that can
Senator Chalifoux: In view of global warming, and we all know it is
happening, we have issues around the Kyoto accord, but it will not do anything
to prevent global warming. In your industry, are they looking ahead to see
exactly how they can readapt? It is fine and dandy for the snow sled tour guide,
but is there something else?
I know that we did not have snow, so we used wagons, and it was wonderful. In
Ottawa, the Winterlude has been a disaster. The Tulip Festival last year in
Ottawa was a disaster. Here at home, and I live north of Edmonton, last year the
whole summer was a disaster. In your industry, are they really looking ahead to
see how they can adapt, because this is what is going to have to happen?
Ms. Patterson: The short answer is no. People are starting to look at
it. This conference coming up is an indication that somebody out there is
starting to wake up, that you cannot pretend it is not happening, and you cannot
pretend it will go away. If you think about it, it is pretty scary in terms of
what the long-term impacts are.
Unfortunately, we do not put a lot of resources into this type of
strategizing. There is money in tourism for marketing — some money, some
people would argue — but we do not spend the time thinking about it.
When I did my own informal survey in preparation for this presentation, most
operators had not thought about it. They are aware that yes, the weather is
different, and they have got something else to deal with, but are there industry
committees or task forces that are talking about it? Not that I am aware of.
There could be some out there, but it is not sweeping the nation in terms of a
We need to think about it, because you are quite right. Things will not be
the same, and traditions that have been there for years and years may not be
what they have been in the past.
The Chairman: So you are saying, then, that there has been no
evaluation of the economic impact to ecotourism by your groups at all?
Ms. Patterson: No, no. There is very limited research on ecotourism in
general. There have been some studies done. Western Canada has done one of the
landmark studies. It was a joint study between B.C. and Alberta on the economic
potential of ecotourism, but that was in 1994 and 1995.
The Chairman: No current figures at all, then?
Ms. Patterson: No.
Senator Chalifoux: Just one more comment. What would you recommend to
this committee regarding your industry in policy change, or what would you ask
us to really report on?
Ms. Patterson: Well, two things, I guess. One would be, do not take
away the flexibility for these tourism operators. There are things I have not
gotten into, but as I said, those operators that have the diversity have the
best chance. There are operators, say, in K Country that used to be able to go
hiking on 50 trails. They would not do all 50, but they would have permits to
allow them to go to all those trails. Now they are being restricted to only two
or three trails.
That is like putting both hands behind your back, and saying, ``Go beat that
guy,'' and it is making it very difficult. So do not take away the diversity
that we need in order to have any chance.
The second thing is to provide opportunities for tourism to be at the table.
Often, nature tourism is the poor cousin; it does not get a voice. That is why I
am so thrilled that you gave me this opportunity. I think it is important for
our voice to be heard because nature tourism has tremendous potential.
There are many studies on the economic impact on bird hunting, bird watching,
and nature tourism in communities. It is just starting to catch on, and I would
hate to see it snuffed out so quickly. If we could get more input, that would be
Senator LaPierre: Thank you for coming, Madam.
As you said, it is a rural business, is it not?
Ms. Patterson: Yes.
Senator LaPierre: I will give you just one idea. Madame, we understand
that you are hit here in Alberta by 10,000 lightning bolts. I think Dr. Amiro
told us that before. Consequently, there are many forest fires. Mushrooms grow
magnificently on the soil of forest fires, and consequently, you could have a
mushroom festival. You should be the province of the mushroom festival.
In British Columbia, in my village lived a woman who was the mushroom lady of
the planet. When there was a huge forest fire in China, she was summoned to help
develop the mushroom industry of China. So, Madame, there is an idea that I pass
on to you.
Ms. Patterson: I think watching the lightning strikes is a great idea,
storm watching, very popular.
Senator Fairbairn: As you were talking, I flipped through your
presentation, and one thing struck me, and I do understand the sort of joyous
appreciation of your industry. I come from the southwest corner of this province
down in the foothills and the mountains, and it is a big issue there as well.
One thing that jumped out at me, because it is also kind of the drought
capital of Alberta, not for one year, but several years, you say under ``Longer
Term Impacts of Climate Change'' that there may be a need to buy water. I am
sorry if I ask you to repeat it, but I am interested in what you mean by that,
because this is a reality that has faced ranchers and horse operations in my
area. It is also facing towns that rely on, a couple years ago, lakes that
It is expensive, and in terms of your particular industry, how do you
envisage buying water in terms of Australia and West Virginia rafting companies?
Ms. Patterson: That is a case where people are buying water for
whitewater experiences, so it is where rivers are being dammed, where they do
not run free anymore. Because there is not enough runoff for the recreational
opportunities, they are looking at paying a fee to hydroelectricity companies or
the local authorities in exchange for the revenue that they would get by using
it for another purpose.
In Australia, rafting companies are spending $1 million a year to be able to
offer rafting, I believe, 365 days of the year. It is a specific case that I am
giving you where those operators that depend on that thrill experience of having
volumes of whitewater coming at you are paying for the privilege of having water
released for their use that cannot be used for an alternative purpose, in this
case, generating power.
Senator Fairbairn: If you were suffering in our province from a lack
of runoff, you might be in competition with places like towns in that kind of
thing. That is sort of a worst-case scenario.
Ms. Patterson: That is where you need more than just money. You need
enough business to compensate that, but you need to have the discussion going
on. You need to have a place where people can talk.
We saw some of that controversy here last summer with the golf tournament
around Wolf Creek, where water was diverted from agriculture for a golf course.
Sometimes we need to have the forum where people can chat. Those issues are
going to become more and more important. Recreation is seen as a less important
facet, but it is also becoming an important part of economic activity. As our
resource extraction shrinks, it becomes more important.
Senator Fairbairn: It is a very interesting and difficult area, in
terms of your industry and in terms of the whole province.
Ms. Patterson: Yes. It is very complex.
Senator Gustafson: A quick question: The element of fear seems to
permeate all of our society since September 11 and so on, and must directly
affect tourism. How do you deal with that?
Ms. Patterson: We have a lot of discussions around fear. We do not
about climate change, but we do talk about fear. It has been front and centre at
many conferences and gatherings. What we are finding is that there is more
interest in nature-based tourism and adventure-based tourism because these
people are more resilient. By its very nature, adventure has an element of fear
to it, so people this type of tourist is still willing to travel within
In Canada, people are more willing to travel than, say, in the U.S. They are
not as fearful, but often perception, again, is everything.
As one operator says, ``Carol, you have to understand our market. Most of our
nature tourists are 50-plus, and they sort of have in their minds 10 good years
of travel.'' They raise the children, push them out the door, and they know they
have got a few years before heath problems or whatever come into play. So they
are not as afraid as you might think.
They are not going to travel into a war zone, but they are well educated, and
they are going to make calculated decisions, but they are not likely to stop
travelling. They may stop for short periods of time.
We have obviously had some significant impacts from 9-11, but that is across
the entire tourism industry including business travel as well. That is a whole
other issue I could get into. As to the nature and adventure travel sector, we
are finding that to be more resilient for a number of reasons.
Senator Gustafson: Given the 60-cent dollar, it should be a great
enticement to the Americans to spend money in Canada. What is happening there in
terms of numbers?
Ms. Patterson: It is starting to come back. Destinations within
driving distance of the U.S. are doing better, but yes, we are finding that the
Americans are much less likely to travel, even for this type of tourism. They
The Chairman: Thanks very, very much. You can tell by all the
questions that you have really stimulated everyone thinking in this area. I
The Chairman: Our next presenter is from Wild Rose Agricultural
Producers, Mr. Keith Degenhardt.
Mr. Keith Degenhardt, Director, Wild Rose Agricultural Producers: Wild
Rose Agricultural Producers is the general farm organization in Alberta. It
represents farm families from all over Alberta who are involved in all types of
agriculture. Alberta farmers have experienced unbelievable extremes in weather
over the last decade. The latest affront with 2002 with the worst drought in 120
years in the majority of Alberta and flood conditions south of Highway 1, which
had seen devastating drought for the previous three years.
The most common observation of farmers over the last decade other than summer
weather extremes has been our unusual, warm, dry winters. To farmers, the
concept of climate change and how it will affect our livelihood is what we live
with season to season.
The international community and our federal government have accepted the
premises that our climate is changing. I see evidence of this in the signing of
the Kyoto Protocol, the work being initiated on best management practices that
reduce greenhouse gasses, and the plans for a domestic emissions trading system.
These, along with the extra pressure resulting from extreme weather, are issues
farmers will have to deal with over the next decades.
Farmers will want to work with the scientific community, governments, and
agro-industry in trying to develop technologies to offset the risks related to
climate change. Working with farmers and making use of their on-the-ground
knowledge will be very important.
An example of this gone wrong occurred in southern Alberta this past year.
The Alberta government, with financial assistance from Ottawa, utilized
satellite imagery to determine vegetative production on pastures in southern
Alberta for pasture insurance. Producers with pastures devastated by drought for
more than three years grew abundant, dense crops of tansy mustard, which is
unpalatable to livestock, but very little grass with this year's rain.
They found that under the pasture insurance program, they did not qualify for
pasture insurance, because the satellite imagery showed they had tremendous
production. The word ``ground truth'' had not occurred to people administering
Agriculture is a high-risk business that does not need lack of communication
and practical knowledge to impede it. We do need, however, to determine, with
strong support from government and agro-industry, the impacts of climate change
in agriculture. If we can obtain this knowledge, we then need to incorporate the
information regionally to minimize the effects of climate change.
One example of this is the ongoing studies showing N2O release on
the Prairies to be significantly less than previously reported from research in
eastern Canada. Soil scientists think the drier prairie climate may explain the
lower emissions. This discrepancy could increase with climate change.
The new carbon market may have both positive and negative effects on
agriculture. In developing this market, there will have to be some major thought
put into developing incentives to encourage industries that purchase carbon
credits to look at, first, reducing CO2 and, second, purchasing CO2
Farmers involved in carbon trading will have to be rewarded in some manner
for early adoption of soil conversation and CO2 sequestration.
Otherwise carbon trading may be a disincentive resulting in farmers changing
away from minimum or zero till and perennial forages, then returning to it for
Finally, there is the question of ownership. Wild Rose's policy is that the
farmer should own the rights to carbon stored in his soil. For the farmer, this
is a no-brainer since they have management responsibility over the soil carbon
With greater risks to farmers from climate change, our safety nets need to be
strengthened, not weakened. Farmers are being asked to invest more in their
safety nets, but are not convinced that they will be getting better or even
equal coverage from their investments. Programs need to be effective and
affordable to the farmer. While saving money from the public purse may be
commendable in the short term, the long-term effects may be negative if the
viability of the family farm is lost. With the new program, farmers will be
looking at obtaining the best bang for their buck.
In minimizing the impact of climate change, farmers will cooperate and adopt
both technology and best management practices at ever-increasing rates,
especially when it is in their long-term best interest. With our much milder
winters and drier, hot summers, this past decade we have had different pests
We have had the orange blossom wheat midge move north to the Canadian
Prairies, grasshopper numbers increase dramatically, and a change in fungal,
bacterial, and viral disease complexes. This has and will result in an increase
and greater flexibility in how farmers, agro-industry, and governments are
investing in research.
An example of increased flexibility is the major dollars being invested
federally, provincially, and by farmers through the Western Grains Research
Foundation wheat and barley check-offs on fusarium and wheat midge research.
With climate change, farmers will be looking more than ever at research
directed at reducing their inputs while increasing their returns. Research aimed
at long-term rotations, drought-tolerant crops and varieties, and the
interactions between annuals, perennials, and livestock in weed control will
need greater emphasis.
In mitigating climate change, farmers will be quick to adopt alternative
energy sources. Farmers are using both solar and wind energy at present. Many of
them, with rising energy costs, are studying the feasibility of being net
suppliers of energy. If there is the political will and investment by all
parties, alternative energy production in rural Canada could be a great boon to
all and have a great impact on our Kyoto commitment.
As well, the concept of biofuels is of great intrigue to farmers, but if we
go in that direction, we will really have to look at plants that will be mass
producers of either carbohydrates or oils and breed in that direction.
Climate change is going to put a great deal of pressure on agriculture.
Hopefully, our responses will help to alleviate these pressures. It will be in
the best interests of humanity.
Thank you for your interest in our opinions and suggestions. I would like to
invite you to keep in touch.
Senator Gustafson: You cover the province of Alberta; is your
experience of losing young farmers the same as Saskatchewan? We have lost about
34 per cent of our farmers in the last five years. What is happening in Alberta?
Mr. Degenhardt: Our experience in Alberta, especially where there is
oil industry presence, is we have part-time farmers. We do not have full-time
farmers. We have young farmers, but they are all part-time farmers, because they
are also working off farm in the oil industry.
Senator Gustafson: What do your numbers say?
Mr. Degenhardt: Ratio of young to old, as in other provinces, our age
of full-time farmers is increasing, and so we are no different, but we have to
look at the fact that there are a lot more part-time farmers. In our rural
communities, because of the oil industry, we have a lot of young people and a
lot of young families that I do not think are common in Saskatchewan.
Senator Gustafson: We have some of that, but it is in pockets.
When we deal with the drought and global warming and so on, there are a lot
of negatives that come in — maybe too many. I was thinking about the
suggestion of — and the Americans did this for years — storing up grain in
bountiful years and then selling it in light years.
Now, Canada can do something that no other country can do — except perhaps,
part of Russia — and that is, once grain freezes, and the bugs are frozen out
of it, it will keep for years. Would it be possible to rethink history? This is
as old as the Book of Exodus — store up grain in the bountiful years for the
If government were to assist farmers in doing that with storage and so on, it
seems to me it could become an excellent asset and commodity, not only for the
Third World, but also for the farmers.
Mr. Degenhardt: Some farmers are already considering that. They have
to be prepared to do that, because, for example, in central Alberta, what little
income came from grains came from stored grains.
Senator Gustafson: Carried over?
Mr. Degenhardt: Carry over.
Senator Gustafson: I am thinking of something bigger than that,
whereby the government puts up storage and pays for the cost of it, because a
lot of farmers would not be capable of doing that. The wealthy farmer could; he
can hang on to his canola until the price goes to $10 or his mustard until it
goes to $20. However, the average farmer cannot do that.
Mr. Degenhardt: That is an interesting outlook. It would be
interesting to see if we can get some commitment on that, because in my years as
a farmer since 1983, I have not seen much commitment in that direction, for
Senator Gustafson: In fact, the movement has been the opposite. Do not
store grain, keep the rails moving, get the stuff moving.
Mr. Degenhardt: That is the object. What we have aimed for in Canada
is to have a high throughput system that moves the grain out as fast as we can,
not store it. That is what has happened. Our storage capabilities have been
greatly decimated over the last 10 years. There is no question.
Senator Gustafson: There is a possibility that we may have been wrong
and that maybe we should be rethinking some of these situations, especially
given the global situation. There is less grain stored today in the world than
ever in the history of agriculture.
Mr. Degenhardt: I agree fully. If we have another bad year somewhere
in the world this year, what we saw in price increases will be nothing compared
to next year, because our stocks worldwide have gone down considerably. I agree,
but I have that little bit of scepticism about commitment. I will be honest.
Senator Gustafson: Maybe it takes some work.
The other thing I would like to mention is the Third World. The Canadian
Foodgrains Bank, which is an excellent NGO, tells us that they do not have
enough grain to get to the starving countries. It is very broad. Somehow, we
have never been able to deal with that situation. At the same time, we are
talking about burning wheat for heat. We are talking about ethanol. I am a
little bit sceptical about that. How far it is really going to go as long as
government has to subsidize it?
I am wondering if we should not rethink our whole policy in this regard.
Mr. Degenhardt: Canada, federally, has contributed less and less world
food aid, so, again, you are suggesting something that is contrary to what has
been occurring, and farmers, through the food bank, are looking at it.
Something that farmers have been very proud of is that they consider
themselves one of the breadbaskets of the world. They want to contribute and
help people in poorer countries. That is something, again, that farmers will be
willing to accept and probably willing to aid in, but we have to see the
commitment elsewhere as well.
Senator Tkachuk: When you said, in response to Senator Gustafson about
part-time farmers, they were working in the oil fields, what do you mean by
``part-time farmers''? Are you talking about grain farmers, or are you talking
about mixed farmers and they have a job?
Mr. Degenhardt: I am talking about farmers in general, regardless of
the enterprise that they are in. Whether they are a livestock producer, a grain
producer, or a mixed farmer, the young farmers are depending on the oil patch
for the cash flow and, in some cases, to fund their hobby called farming.
One thing we have, with the oil patch in Alberta, because of the wealth, is
our land values are quite high. Anyone going into agriculture, unless they are
inheriting the farm, have a major debt load ahead of them, because they are
looking at outside sources to supply the income to buy the farm.
Senator Tkachuk: Is that because of the potential resources
underneath? Is that why they are higher, or is it just that there is a bigger
Mr. Degenhardt: To some extent, yes. In the area that I am in, for
example, east central Alberta, about 30 miles from the Saskatchewan border, we
got an inch of moisture this year, and it is an area that has switched
dramatically to livestock production, but when you look at our returns, it does
not justify the land values being paid. You cannot purchase that land without
some source of income or else inheriting the land.
Senator Tkachuk: Why do people buy it?
Mr. Degenhardt: This is this attraction to own land if you come from a
rural community. When I am in the urban community, I see all these SUVs,
Mercedes, and so forth. People can get around in other ways, but that seems to
be what they aim for.
Senator Tkachuk: You mentioned the drought, which was a serious
drought, not only here, but across Saskatchewan as well. Manitoba did not seem
to be affected as much, but you said the worst drought in 120 years in the
majority of Alberta. Was it worse than the 1930s, 120 years ago?
Mr. Degenhardt: Yes. It was much worse than the 1930s. There are
studies being done in Regina where they have been looking at the tree rings.
When they look at the growth of tree rings and with these trees, anywhere from
200 to 300 years old, the 1930s is barely a blip in tree ring growth.
When I talked to my parents and grandparents, they got significant snowfall
in the winter in the 1930s, and they got moisture, but they got it at the wrong
For example, on our farm this year, I speak of an inch of moisture, which was
during the primary growing season when I wanted to produce a grain crop, but we
actually got rain in the middle of the August. So we had canola in full flower
and flax in full flower in September when we want to harvest the material.
Senator Tkachuk: You got it at the wrong time too, though. You got it
in August rather than in the spring. In the fall it started raining quite a bit.
Mr. Degenhardt: That is in parts of Saskatchewan. When we got that, it
was enough to get some growth so we could do some salvage as far as green pea,
but we got only 2 1/2 inches. For the year, we had 3 1/2 inches; 3 1/2 inches is
still not much moisture.
Senator Tkachuk: Right. Just trying to get a perspective on this to
see if there are any other patterns besides. Do you think this is going to be
Mr. Degenhardt: In my presentation I referred to working with the
scientific community. The scientific community is not unanimous on climate
change or effects. In fact, there are people going around Alberta right now
stating that we do not have climate change. We have sunspots creating extreme
Senator Tkachuk: Well, there are a lot of scientists saying that.
Mr. Degenhardt: One of them is going around Alberta, giving
presentations, saying that very thing. He may be right, but regardless, farmers
are experiencing extremes in weather. That is what we are going to have to deal
with, and that is what we have to develop, varieties in crops and farming
techniques to cope with those extremes.
For example, in our area, we normally have had enough pasture to handle all
our livestock. Cattle went out of the area, and because of the lack of moisture,
85 per cent of the annual crops were pastured, what the grasshoppers did not
Senator Tkachuk: Yes. I drove through the grasshoppers here. It was
between Kindersley and Drumheller. It was pretty fierce. I have seen that before
Senator Fairbairn: Thank you for being here Mr. Degenhardt. I have
known Wild Rose for a long time, and I always admired it for the fact that, as
you say, the farmers are very close, in your organization. They are very close
to the ground, and I shuddered when you talked about ``ground truth'' in the
early part of your presentation and the picture from the satellite compared to
what actually was taking place in my part of the south with the non-pastures and
this kind of thing.
Also, as you commented, we have suffered — your area, my area — not for
one year, but a number of years with some of the worst drought that anyone has
any recollection of. Then this year it was flash flooding when seeding was on,
and it was cold and rainy when you needed to finish off your corn crop and your
sugar beets. It just was not working.
You have nonetheless produced a rather hopeful kind of presentation today,
which I appreciate, and I am sure the committee does too, because you are facing
a reality and looking for a way to deal with it.
Your final words here said you would like to keep in touch. That is an issue
that has come up in a number of presentations back in Ottawa when groups have
been coming to us, and that is the question of communications on these difficult
issues. I would like to ask you if you feel that (a) the farmers are getting
enough regular back-and-forth communication on what is happening as the months
go on in the crop year? If not, have you any suggestions on how we could do it
Certainly we should not rely totally on satellites. If we are going to get
through this, if we are going to adapt and change, and nobody does it better
than the farmers, should we be developing now with government, with farm
organizations, and through them with their membership a more significant,
regular, and pointed form of communication than now exists within our system?
Mr. Degenhardt: I would have to say yes. Our group, along with a lot
of other farm groups and even through CFA, the grain growers, are working on the
Agricultural Policy Framework, APF, and there seems to be a barrier in
communication there. They are coming forward with one view to try to sell us,
and they are having another view presented to them. We really do not want
something sold to us. We want to be part of developing it.
I think we need to do more on communication. Right now we do not seem to have
it. It seems to be, let us hand this down and see what sort of response it has
in the community, see if it has an effect in the community. So yes, I would like
to see more communication, more feedback. Right now it seems like we are not
Senator Fairbairn: Being told rather than consulted?
Mr. Degenhardt: Yes.
Senator Fairbairn: One final question: Just before Christmas, there
was a report out of Alberta. I believe it was researchers within Alberta
Agriculture who at that time in the fall were — I would not use the word
``predicting,'' but were looking ahead into the next season, and without a
terrific winter and spring — suggesting that 90 per cent of the productive
land in Alberta would not be able to produce meaningfully.
What is your response to that? That was a very startling comment, which, as
it was reported anyhow, certainly stuck in my mind.
Mr. Degenhardt: I can talk about the immediate area I am in, which is
primarily livestock. We are also in the seed business, my wife and I on our
farm, and so we talked to farmers about what their seeding intentions are, and
we have two totally different opinions of what they are going to do.
One is, everything is going into feed grains, because they have got to have
something for their cattle. Then you have the people who have possibly some
swing acres, and they are not expecting to get production, so they are looking
at what they are going to get the best return on from crop insurance.
I will be honest; that is what they are looking at. They are saying, ``On my
farm with my indexes, canola is the best thing I can put down as far as what I
will get out of crop insurance.'' They are not looking at maybe that being best
for this coming season, although the canola was a real shocker this year for
what it did for the feed industry, not for oil seed production.
There are a lot of people whose bacon was saved because they put up canola
for salvage from their neighbour and so forth. That is how they are determining
what they are going to do, because they do not feel we can predict we are going
to get the moisture to produce a crop. It is as simple as that.
Senator Gustafson: On the feed situation, how is Alberta going to deal
with the situation of feed as long as Illinois and Iowa corn is coming in at $2
a bushel? The truckers in my area that spent last year trucking barley into
Alberta said many of them never even made one trip because of all the corn
coming in from the U.S.
Mr. Degenhardt: That is an interesting phenomenon of that program. You
did not touch upon one other program they have in the U.S. besides storage of
grain. The other program is their five-year farm program.
Alberta has been a province that has claimed that we need to look at
value-added, and that is where we need to go. Farmers, again, have been a little
bit sceptical because often, what value-added means is the raw product has to be
sold for less. U.S. is taking it one further.
They have said, ``We know it is going to be sold for less, so we are going to
make sure the farmer gets a viable return from the government.'' However, the
value-added industries are going to get their little bonus, because they are
going to have lots of raw product. We think they have bought value-added
industry, and that corn coming in is just part and parcel of that program.
Senator Tkachuk: As long as the American government subsidizes their
farmers to the extent they do, the Canadian farmer, who is left on his own
without the subsidies, cannot compete.
Mr. Degenhardt: I do have to comment that even though they did not
ship that barley, from personal experience and again, from a lot of truckers,
there were a lot of trucks out of Saskatchewan carrying bales and other sources.
At our farm, if it were not for bales out of Watson, Saskatchewan, we would not
have had enough feed for our livestock herd.
One further comment about this weird year: As you say, parts did get the
rain, but so many of those areas still have not got their crop off. That is the
shocking part. In areas of Saskatchewan like that Watson area and areas of
southern Alberta, they still have fields out there that they have not taken off.
So it has been even harder on them, the frustration of growing a crop and then
not being able to harvest the crop.
The Chairman: One of the most interesting things you said is that, as
a result of certain rules and regulations in terms of farm supports, it is
actually a huge impediment to adapting to climate change. I found that very
useful and something that we will be looking at in our committee.
Senator Hubley: My question is going to follow along what you have
just stated. Would you comment briefly on the effectiveness of the safety net
programs that are available to the farming community? Which ones are working,
which ones are not working, and how should they change to facilitate the
farmers' ability to adapt to climate change?
Mr. Degenhardt: That would take longer than a brief comment. We had
this APF in progress, and so there seems to be a determination to make that
work. We seem to be having a program presented to us and sold to us that is
going to solve our problem, so all I would be doing is giving you another
As far as we are concerned, in Alberta, crop insurance is our disaster
insurance, because it gives us our baseline. We will recover some of our inputs
if we have to go on crop insurance. It is not insuring the 70 per cent the way
it is developed and indexed where we refer to it as disaster insurance.
For an established farmer, Net Income Stabilization Accounts, NISA, is a good
program, as it presently sits. Yet, there is a real gap when it comes to the
beginning farmer, which we have not addressed. Hopefully, that is one positive
out of APF, some addressing of that issue.
When it comes to CFIP or what was presumably the disaster component program,
it works very well for single- commodity operations, but not for any diversified
farms. One of the reasons farmers diversify is to save their bacon because when
something fails, something else will work. CFIP has not worked well on anything
but single-commodity farms. So that is how I view what we have had in the past.
As far as APF, what I have seen of it, the analysis we have seen of it, we
are not sure what is going to happen with it, whether it will work or not. It is
difficult to say whether that program is going to be positive or negative.
The only thing we can say is, as in my presentation, we know we are going to
pay more, which does not bother us as long as we can get that bang for the buck
and as long as it does not affect some other program.
The Chairman: Thank you very, very much, Mr. Degenhardt.
Our next presenter is Daniel Archambault from the Alberta Research Counsel.
Please proceed, Mr. Archambault.
Mr. Daniel Archambault, Research Scientist, Alberta Research Council: I
would like to start by thanking you for the opportunity to speak before you this
morning and to go through some of my views on climate change impacts and
adaptation in agriculture. My views mostly represent those of a research
scientist rather than a farmer, and also my views might reflect those of my
colleagues, especially those that work in our research group at the Alberta
As I mentioned, I work for the Alberta Research Council, which is a
subsidiary of the Alberta Science and Research Authority. It is a not-for-profit
corporation where we do research and development, technology commercialization,
and some fee-for-service work.
I am part of a division called Integrated Resource Management that was
recently formed at the Alberta Research Council to address issues relating to
natural resource management. It also has a focus to develop technologies for
sustainable development, a very important component of dealing with climate
change. We also have formed an environmental technologies business unit, which
has a specific program on adaptation and biofixation.
The biofixation part of the program deals mostly with mitigation of climate
change through fixation of carbons via carbon sequestration and also through the
fixation of nitrogen by biological means, and thereby decreasing the use of
chemical fertilizers that produce greenhouse gases.
My plan here this morning is to give some examples of the work that we have
done to show some of the vulnerabilities of agriculture to climate change and
then make some suggestions as to adaptation and a few recommendations. I would
like to try and build a case here for a more concerted effort, maybe in
adaptation specifically and towards developing technologies that will help in
Briefly, we also study the effects of agriculture on the environment as well
as the effects of the environment on agriculture. Some examples, we study
greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils, and we are developing methods
to measure and try and identify practices that produce fewer greenhouse gases.
The main focus, then, and more relevant for today's discussion, is
vulnerabilities of agriculture to climate change. We basically have two streams
of work, one in research development, and the other in technology
commercialization. Development of technologies and their commercialization is an
important specialty of the Alberta Research Council.
Under research and development, we look at the effects of climate change on
pests, and here I use the term ``pests'' generically to depict weeds, diseases,
and insects. Also, when I speak of effects of climate change on pesticide
efficacy, again, we are looking at how the efficacy of herbicides, for example,
might be affected by climate change.
We also studied drought tolerance of important crops of Alberta and their
water-use efficiency, and various cultivation practices. In terms of developing
technologies, some of the areas we are looking at are drought-tolerant
varieties. The use of new green manuring technologies: green manuring is the
process of using plant material to fertilize soil rather than chemicals,
integrated fertility approaches of combining the use of chemicals, chemical
fertilizers, with organic forms of fertilizers. Also, we work on renewable
products like biofuels and agrofibers.
The next slide illustrates the fact that we now have identified both positive
and negative impacts of climate change, and this comes from the Climate Change
Impacts and Adaptation Directorate. Most of the examples that I am going to use
today are negative impacts, so they are listed on the right-hand column. For
example, I will show some data on decreased efficacy of herbicides.
When they speak of climate change, what sorts of climate change do we expect?
Severe weather, drought and flooding, elevated temperatures — on a larger
scale known as global warming — elevated carbon dioxide at ground level, and
changes in length of growing season. I have highlighted in yellow those for
which I want to give more information.
The first one is drought. This slide shows that precipitation did a departure
from a 30-year normal this past season. The dark orange regions show much below
precipitation levels. As I have indicated, the town of Vegreville where our
research centre is, is right in the middle of this much-below-average
Our research is most relevant to central and east central Alberta. As you can
see from this map, during this past season and other recent seasons, we have had
extreme drought in those areas.
Precipitation in Vegreville in 2002 was extremely low this past year, and
barley yields in our own experimental plots dropped by about 50 per cent from
As an aside here, I want to point out the difficulties that this brings in
our field research. It is not only an effect on local farmers, but our own field
research is very much affected by the drought.
Again on drought, these are figures that represent the entire province of
Alberta, showing spring soil moisture, comparing on the left an average of
multiple years, and on the right, the year 2002. I want to show that the low and
very low — or the proportion of soils with low and very low — moisture
levels is much greater in 2002 than in the past.
Some of effects on crops may be obvious: decreased germination, decreased
biomass and yield, premature aging, and poor quality of the harvested products.
What are some of the adaptation options? Obviously, this is not an extensive
list, but provides some examples of what we might work on. More extensive
irrigation is one example that requires more on-farm water management, also
increased efficiency of irrigation systems.
It is easy to say, ``We will just irrigate more land,'' but water is limited,
especially in the southern parts of the province. So the efficiency of
irrigation needs to be worked on. This is an engineering-type problem where
technologies may need to be developed.
In the area of drought-tolerant varieties, which is related to improved
water-use efficiency, when we speak of water- use efficiency, we might look at
the whole cropping system, rather than just a single variety. We might also need
to develop new crops or new drought-tolerant crops.
Still on effects of climate change, global warming, and some temperature
effects, there are important effects of temperature on weeds. For example,
tropical and warm temperate weeds might start to move north from the U.S.
mostly. The rate of expansion of their ranges is accelerating, so they are
moving into the province more quickly.
Also, an effect of temperature but more directly on crops, Lobell and Asner
recently estimated that for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature,
there is about a 17 per cent crop loss in corn and soy bean. Temperatures might
affect differentially a crop versus a weed, and the whole dynamic might change.
Those are things that need to be studied.
Increases in temperature and drought are more immediate in our mind, but when
we think of climate change, we also think of elevated carbon dioxide. We are all
aware of how carbon dioxide levels at ground level have increases over the last
100 years, and they are predicted to continue to increase.
We have been looking at some of the effects of elevated carbon dioxide, and
this figure shows biomass production of a number of different, important weeds
of Alberta. You will notice in the right-hand column, the per cent change, that
the biomass production or growth increases quite dramatically. The first one on
the list, green foxtail, is one of those species that is not expected to respond
very much to elevated carbon dioxide, yet our data shows otherwise. There is a
lot of uncertainty as to how weeds will respond to elevated carbon dioxide.
Also on carbon dioxide, we looked at herbicide efficacy. We tested a number
of herbicides and looked at the effects of elevated CO2. A number of
herbicides, depending on the rate applied, have the efficacy decreased quite
dramatically, in some cases by up to nearly 60 per cent, so again, uncertainty
In the case of weed and crop competition, in some of our experiments, in the
absence of competition from a crop, we saw wild oats biomass increase by about
55 per cent, yet when barley was grown in competition with the weed, there was
no increase in biomass in wild oats. Again, it is hard to predict the effects of
carbon dioxide. You might have an increased growth in the weed, or if it is
grown in competition with a certain crop, then you might not see that increase
The efficacy of the herbicides might decrease, and how do we actually predict
what is going to happen in the future in terms of, most importantly, the yield
of the crop and, of course, the quality.
Some adaptation options are simpler than others. We might increase, of
course, the rates of herbicide or pesticide application, to the detriment of our
environment. We might need to develop new pesticides that are not in existence
We might have to look at new pest-control technologies — and here I put an
example of biological biocontrols — and also, changes in agricultural
practices such as crop rotations and different cultivation practices. The point
of this slide is to illustrate that there is very likely a need, an important
need, for development of technologies to deal with these issues in this slide,
particularly to do with pests and control of pests.
The next slide deals with elevated CO2 effects on plant nutrition
itself and on the nutritional value of the crop. The first point is that
elevated CO2 can increase crop yields, and that has been known for a
very long time. However, some recent studies show that those plants also have a
lower nutritional value, which means that basically a person would have to eat
more of it to satisfy their nutritional needs.
How do we deal with that? We might try to increase the amount of fertilizers
we apply, for example, to see if we can counteract that effect, so the quality
of the harvested parts is maintained in the event of elevated CO2.
When we do that, we not only fertilize the crop, we fertilize the weeds. Again,
that has an effect on the weed-crop competition. So weed competition might
eliminate those yield-enhancing effects of fertilization, also the
yield-enhancing effects of carbon dioxide enrichments in the environment.
Briefly, I would like to highlight some of the adaptation initiatives. I am
sure you are aware of all this, but this leads to a point that I want to make in
The Climate Change Action Fund was established in 1998, and from that, there
is a subcomponent of science, impacts, and adaptation, which is lead by Natural
Resources Canada. The entire subcomponent was for $15 million over a number of
years split between science, impacts, and adaptation work, with the mandate of
studying impacts and adaptation and also developing adaptation strategies.
Through funds from CCAF, the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative was
formed in 2000. A lot of the work that I just presented to you was partially
funded from the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative. If you look at all
the lists of projects specifically on adaptation or climate change research in
agriculture, you will find that only four agricultural projects have been
funded, which is a relatively small number of projects.
More recently, again with the support of the Climate Change Action Fund, the
Canadian Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Research Network, agricultural
sector, was developed, and that is a good initiative. I have been part of this
network probably since its inception, and I have been aware of the work they do.
Now we have a good mechanism to coordinate work in this area on both impacts and
The point of this was to build a network to promote and facilitate research
on climate impacts, vulnerabilities, risks, and adaptation. Again, this
organization is split in exactly which part of climate change we study.
Finally, the recommendations, then: What I have tried to do is show, in the
last slide, that on the larger scale, when you look at it, there is not that
much of an investment yet made in adaptation, especially in adaptation
technology. So we have identified now several vulnerabilities of agriculture.
We have also identified some of the opportunities related to agriculture, and
we continue to do so, but now is really the time to work on the technologies
that are required to adapt to climate change. I believe that this can be done
through the creation of some sort of agricultural adaptation centre where a real
focus on technology development could be achieved.
Finally, of course, that needs increased government investment in climate
change R and D and adaptation technology development, and also work by the
government to encourage industries to invest in adaptation research early and
not wait until the effects are so widespread that it is practically
The Chairman: Thank you for a most excellent report. One of the things
we have found since we have come to Western Canada is that a number of the
witnesses are talking about the main part of our study, which is adaptation. You
have done that yet again, and I note your bias towards new technologies. That is
wonderful, I do appreciate all the things you said.
Senator Hubley: We have been very impressed with the calibre of the
presentations that we have seen and the amount of work that is being done in
My question is about communications. How are we going to partnership the work
that you are doing with the farming community that is ultimately going to need
this information to develop their adaptation strategies? What avenues are
available to you to communicate this vital information to the farm community?
Mr. Archambault: Our avenues are on a local scale rather than
province-wide. We work with a lot of farmers in our area because we have
experimental plots on their lands. We hold regular open houses at the Alberta
Research Council to try and bring in producers and talk about the work we do and
try and enhance the extension mechanisms.
That is the sort of thing that we do at the Alberta Research Council. I
suppose that some organizations like C- CIARN also try and put information out
there for farmers. Perhaps more of an effort could be made to bring them in on
Senator Hubley: Do you find that the farming community is looking for
Mr. Archambault: As I said at the beginning, my perspective is more
from the scientific research side. I say that because I do not work in extension
to a large extent. However, when we do have the occasion to demonstrate our work
to farmers, that they are very interested. We always get a very good turnout and
lots of questions.
Senator Hubley: I really think that communication is going to come
into play in a major way in allowing the farmers the time and opportunity to
adjust and to look creatively at what their strategy is going to be.
Senator Wiebe: Has the Alberta Research Council done any research work
in terms of water, water availability, and groundwater? By ``groundwater,'' I
mean water that is located in huge reservoirs underneath the surface.
Mr. Archambault: We have not done so for the purpose of agriculture.
There is some work being done on monitoring. However, for the purposes of our
research, there is no wide initiative or our substantial type of program for
that activity in the Alberta Research Council.
Senator Wiebe: Do you know whether there is any department within the
government in Alberta that studies underground levels and the availability of
Mr. Archambault: I am not sure. There is a soil science researchers'
group in Alberta that is working with Environment Canada to gather information
on precipitation and soil moisture levels. As to studies on actual water
reserves in the water table and so forth, I am not aware of any.
Senator Wiebe: I ask the question because in order to have rain, you
have to have heat, and then evaporation, and then you have rain. Our planet is
not going to lose any water unless we pump it into the ground. Where we were
receiving moisture in the past over a three-day period, we will now probably
receive the same amount of moisture in an hour and a half. The key in adaptation
will be how we store that water for future use. Do we allow it to flow back out
to the oceans?
The state of Colorado has a tremendous agricultural industry from ground
water. They pump it up from wells underneath the ground. The problem is that
they did not do the proper research on it and the mountains that feed that
underground water. They are having problems with the lack of snow.
Perhaps we could be looking into using that capability. For example, the
southern part of Saskatchewan is one huge lake. Part of my water hook-up for my
farm is from that lake. When we built the well, they told us that it was an
endless supply. Well, we know that endless supplies are eventually used up. That
is what has happened in Colorado.
Maybe we should be doing some research on taking excess and replenishing
those underground caverns. That is going to be the way to store and save water.
You do not have to worry about evaporation. You do not have to worry about huge
dams being built on top. Wherever that lake is throughout Alberta and throughout
Saskatchewan, wells can be done.
I was hoping to get an answer to that question of mine. Could I ask you to
check with other departments within the government if they are doing work such
as this? If they are, would you advise our clerk. He will pass that information
on to us. Is that a fair question?
Mr. Archambault: Yes, it is a fair question. That is an interesting
idea. You are right in saying that it seems to be the distribution of water that
is changing, rather than the actual total quantity. There is work being done in
the area of carbon dioxide sequestration where carbon dioxide is being pumped
into aquifers in the soil.
The biggest project in that respect is somewhere around Wayburn and Manitoba.
As part of that project, there has been a fairly extensive mapping of the
aquifers in those areas. If those technologies prove useful, they might expand
to other provinces. Therefore, more mapping of aquifers will be required. I am
aware of scientists that are leading that project in carbon sequestration. I
could talk to them.
Senator Wiebe: If you could provide us with some information, it would
The Chairman: Yesterday, we had some evidence in Saskatchewan of some
piping systems where people pipe water from streams and lakes to farms to help
with both irrigation and watering of animals and so on. It is somewhat
surprising that there are not more sophisticated watering systems available in
Alberta given that there are the mountains. I would think that one could run
pipes from the mountains. However, I am just surprised that you indicate there
is so little research work done on that.
Mr. Archambault: For a large part of the province, it has not really
been a big problem until recently, so irrigation was not necessary. In the
portion that is irrigated, yes, I think a lot of research is necessary to
improve the efficiency of the irrigation systems.
Senator Tkachuk: I may be mistaken, but the 1990s were a pretty good
decade for agriculture, were they not? Crops were good in our province; were
they good here in Alberta?
Mr. Archambault: Yes.
Senator Tkachuk: We had some drought in the mid-1980s — particularly
1984-85. It was pretty serious. I do not know how serious it was in Alberta, but
it certainly was in Saskatchewan.
However, in 1990s we saw good crop yields and good agriculture production. If
I go to page 4 of your presentation, I see climate change, drought, flooding,
elevated temperatures, and elevated CO2. What is that based on? Is
that based on models, computer models you are running?
Mr. Archambault: Well, I suppose they are not all based on the same
pieces of information. These are projections for temperature rise, elevated
carbon dioxide, and so on. Yes, it is based on computer models. However, in the
case of elevated CO2, the trend is very obvious. I do not think you
need much of a computer system to see how it is increasing nearly exponentially.
It is based on observation. Some of these observations are also on the global
scale, so it depends on exactly where you are looking at.
Senator Tkachuk: I am asking this because in reading the scientific
literature, you see their next 100-year projection on the amount of temperature
increase is varied. That is why I am asking is this based on one degree? Two
degrees? Three degrees? Four degrees? What does this actually all mean? You have
got this map of drought. This is the drought of 2002. We could have a map of the
drought of 1984, a map of the drought of 1930, which would probably all be red.
What are you telling us?
Mr. Archambault: There are two important issues to look at here: one
is a time factor, and the other is a scale of the problem.
When we examine this, we look at trends, right. Depending on what level you
are looking at, you can see different trends. Therefore, some of the trends are
more short term. They may be for the 1990s, for example, and the others may be
for the last 100 years or beyond. For example, carbon dioxide levels have been
documented worldwide for nearly 100 years.
In some cases, we have information that spans a longer period and in some
cases, the information covers a shorter period. If you focus on a single decade,
you might say, ``Things are really bad. This is as bad as I have ever seen it.''
Yet, you look at the decade previous to that, and it was not so bad. If you look
at 100 years, you may see a trend overall.
If you draw a line through the entire, say, monitoring data for 100 years,
you might see a degree warmer on average, but I think one thing that is
important there is that average is often driven by extreme events. You might
have a drought or very high heat for a few weeks, and those have potential to be
catastrophic. However, if you look at 100 years of temperature monitoring data,
for example, you might find that for that one degree difference to show up in
the trend, you need to have a series of those events to occur because this is
such a long average, a long-running average.
Senator Tkachuk: That is what I was getting at. We have here this map
of the 2002 drought. If that map signified a century as compared to previous
century, then we could say there is some scientific validity to the point.
However, you can take any year drought; it will be an extreme compared to the
I am not trying to disparage the very idea of climate change. I am simply
trying to understand more clearly so we know what some of these are when we are
doing our report. On page 7 of your brief, you quote Patterson: ``Range
expansion of weeds into higher latitudes might accelerate.'' Now, this was
written in 1990, and it would help us if you told us if this has actually
happened in the 1990s, and what weeds they are, and where did they go to?
Mr. Archambault: Most of this was done from mapping the distribution
of weeds over the number of years and then feeding that information into a model
to try and see where they are going. There is a definite trend. It shows that
weeds that are usually found in warmer climates are moving north.
Senator Tkachuk: You say that: ``Range expansion of weeds into higher
latitudes might accelerate.'' Has it accelerated in the last decade? Since you
wrote this thing, have there been weeds in Alberta that were not here before
that came from Montana, or did Montana get weeds that came from Nevada?
Mr. Archambault: There have been changes in the weeds that we find in
Alberta, yes. Exactly where they came from and how, I cannot really answer that.
Senator Gustafson: In the mid-1980s when we had a very serious drought
in southern Saskatchewan, the weed that saved us was the kosha weed. I for one
believe that the soil can regenerate itself, and it knows what it needs.
Now we spray everything out. We use pesticides and so on. We did it with
grasshoppers in the mid-1980s. We sprayed the grasshoppers. The areas that we
did not spray cleaned up quicker than the areas we sprayed. In the areas that
were not sprayed, the grasshoppers got a mite under their wings and died off.
With spraying, we just prolonged the issue.
With regard to the kosha weed, if we had not had it, we would not have had
any feed for our cattle. We did not have kosha weed before that drought. From a
practical sense, we have to be very, very careful. There may be some short- term
gain but some long-term pain.
Mr. Archambault: We must be clear about the definition of a weed. Just
because a plant is not a crop, does not make it a weed. In different situations,
plants are useful to us; in others, they are not. In the case you are
describing, they were; therefore, by definition, it was not a weed.
There is a lot of work done on the ecology of weeds and how they affect
agriculture. Some recent studies indicate that it is better for a crop to leave
some weeds in. The crops actually perform better. At some point, however, the
weeds are just overwhelming, and then we have a problem.
Senator Gustafson: The same thing is true with grasshoppers. When you
use dieldrin, you are not only killing grasshoppers, you are killing every other
living thing in that soil.
The Chairman: Including the good worms.
Senator Tkachuk: On page 9, you have an interesting statement — that
CO2 can increase crop yields. However, then you mention that decrease
in nutritional value may also occur. What does the word ``may,'' mean?
Mr. Archambault: It just means that the result has been reported in
some studies, but not in all. Therefore, depending on the crop, depending on the
level of carbon dioxide and how you fertilize it, it ``may'' occur. Hence, we
might have to adjust how we apply fertilizers, the rates and so on, to
counterbalance that. At a certain level of carbon dioxide, if you have the
proper fertilizer regime, you might counteract that.
Senator Tkachuk: In respect of cash for climate change — like the
Climate Change Action Fund — I think there were some serious initiatives in
February's budget. However, I have not been back in Ottawa since the budget, so
I have not had a look at exactly how much cash there will be for research into
Cash gathers people. You have got to believe that there is something bad
happening so that you can get your hands on the cash. Do you think that that is
going to take away resources and money from other needs of the agriculture
community that also need to be researched? In other words, is this whole climate
change threat going to divert cash from other legitimate areas?
For example, what portion of the Alberta Research Council's resources are
directed toward climate change.
Mr. Archambault: I would say around 5 per cent. I am not an expert on
how government spends money or that kind of thing.
I understand if there is a limited budget, that if you increase somewhere,
you have got to decrease somewhere else. As to priorities for agriculture, well,
I think you need to listen to the scientific community. There are a lot of
people — very credible sources — behind this and saying that it is becoming
Agriculture is all about change and adaptation and research to improve and
increase production on a per unit area basis and on dealing with new challenges.
These new challenges are very important. Therefore, it seems that there is a
need for more money, particularly for research into devastating effects where an
entire crop can be wiped out for years on end.
The government has to establish priorities. We have general agreement that
climate change is happening and we have a lot of evidence that climate change
impacts agriculture. The question is whether the impacts great enough and
predicted to be great enough to take action now. Many of my colleagues, and
especially part of this C-CIARN network, would say yes, it is time that we act.
My point is exactly that.
Now that we know that there are definite important impacts of climate change
on agriculture, let us act on it. It is up to the government to decide yes, this
is a credible story and we should invest in it or invest in other parts of
The Chairman: Mr. Archambault, thank you very, very much. We
appreciate all your comments.
The next witness is Mr. Robert Grant, associate professor at the Department
of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta.
Welcome, Mr. Grant. Do you have a computer presentation?
Mr. Robert Grant, Associate Professor, Department of Renewable Resources,
University of Alberta: Yes. I am just waiting for it to be brought up.
I will also be talking about climate change impacts on Canadian agriculture,
as I believe was requested by this committee. I will be reporting on the results
of some of my own research, as well as research carried out by colleagues in
Agriculture and Agri-food Canada as well as internationally to try to paint a
very broad overview of what the general scientific consensus is on what the
impacts of climate change will be on the productivity of our agricultural
I would first of all like to review what we believe to be the positive
impacts of climate change on agriculture. It has been demonstrated very
consistently in numerous experiments that higher concentrations of atmospheric
CO2 will raise carbon dioxide fixation rates, and thereby improve
plant productivity. A doubling of current concentrations is expected in most
climate change scenarios by the end of this century.
It has been demonstrated quite consistently that this will raise plant growth
by about 30 per cent for so-called C3 plants and by a smaller figure, about 10
per cent, for C4.
It is very important to note, however, that this increase, impressive as it
sounds, may be limited by nutrients and is, therefore, only achieved in the
presence of adequate fertilization.
It is also known that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide lowers
transpiration rates and, hence, plant water requirements. Again, if we go to the
doubling CO2 scenario, this will lower water requirements by about 15
to 25 per cent, and even more so if nutrients are limiting, as is the case in
most agricultural ecosystems.
We also know that higher temperatures will raise CO2 fixation
rates and lengthen growing seasons. This is particularly relevant for ecosystems
with mean annual temperatures less than 15 degrees where this benefit is
generally positive. I should also note, however, that in ecosystems with
temperatures or annual mean temperatures greater than 15 degrees this impact can
be neutral or indeed negative.
This is very important in terms of productivity of tropical ecosystems, which
are generally expected to decline in response to higher temperature. However,
the outlook for Canadian ecosystems, because we fall within the zones that are
much less than 15 degrees in annual mean temperature, the effect of temperature
increase is expected generally to be positive. Higher temperatures also
accelerate nutrient availability and nutrient uptake from soils.
There are, however, a number of negative impacts that we need to be aware of.
Higher temperatures raise evaporation rates and, hence, water requirements. One
senator asked the following question: ``What is the change of temperature
increases you expect to occur by the end of this century?'' Currently, scenarios
fall within the range of a temperature rise of 1.4 to 5.8 degrees. Of course,
this is regionally variable. It will be higher in the north, not so in the
south. If we select, say, a 3.5-degree temperature increase as being about the
mean, water requirements would increase by about 25 per cent, evaporation rates
would increase by about 25 per cent. This is quite a significant figure, and it
is therefore reasonable to expect that in about 100 years, our evaporation rates
will be about that much higher than what they are now.
This rise will largely offset reductions in water requirements from higher CO2
that plants will need. Therefore, it is expected that our water requirements may
not necessarily rise due to higher temperatures, because those needs will be
offset by higher CO2. However, evaporation from ponds, irrigation
reservoirs, glaciers — evaporation that occurs not from plants but from
free-water surfaces — will be greatly accelerated, and that is an important
point of which we need to be aware.
There is also a concern that more rapid soil drying during mid-continental
summers will cause greater risks of agricultural drought and forest fires, as
well as decreased quantity and quality of water in reservoirs, ground water, et
On the other hand, higher temperatures are also expected to cause higher
precipitation. In general, a 3.5-degree temperature rise, which is about the
mid-range of what we expect over the next 100 years, will probably cause about
an 8- to 10 per cent rise in precipitation. However, precipitation is not to be
understood simply in terms of total amounts. It also has to be understood in
terms of its variability and intensity. It is expected to become more variable.
Generally speaking, more variable rainfall, even if everything else is equal,
reduces the productivity of plants. It also increases erosion, so this is also a
It is, therefore, very important that the effects of variable rainfall on
productivity be reduced by soil- and water- conservation practices that maintain
soil organic matter and improve water-use efficiency. These practices include
primarily reduction of tillage, inclusion of pastures and legumes in rotations,
improved irrigation water-use efficiency, reduction of summer fallow and
improved use of nutrients. There is a whole range of agricultural practices
that, I think, help to reduce the vulnerability of our ecosystems to the sort of
variability in precipitation that may arise during climate change.
There are a number of other negative impacts. Higher temperatures raise
respiration rates and, hence, loss of carbon to the atmosphere. This is
especially critical in ecosystems where the mean annual temperature is 15
degrees or greater. These ecosystems would be found approximately from
Tennessee-North Carolina south. Therefore, those more southern ecosystems will
be impacted more negatively. As for tropical ecosystems, as I mentioned earlier,
the general outlook for them under climate change is negative in terms of their
productivity. On the other hand, the outlook for Canadian ecosystems tends to be
More frequent heat waves can cause heat stress in livestock and crops. This
is something for which we need to be more prepared. As well, higher minimum
temperatures, as has been mentioned earlier, allows for expanded ranges for
pests and disease. For example, grasshoppers and potato beetles are moving in
even more than the past, and this is of some concern.
The key points I should like to make in terms of expected climate change
impacts during the 21st century are as follows. The frost-free season will be
extended by about 40 days. Growing seasons are already lengthening by one to
three days per decade, so this is a process that is already well in place. We
may therefore need longer-maturing and heat-tolerant crop varieties. The
replacement of crop varieties is an ongoing process in agriculture, but these
are directions in which, perhaps, our breeding programs need to be going. This
point, of course, has been raised earlier.
Seeding dates of annual crops will be about three weeks earlier than at
present, so there is an entire adjustment of cropping calendars that will need
to be considered. Regrowth of perennial crops will start two to three weeks
earlier. As well, critical fall harvest dates — the dates during which harvest
of perennials needs to be avoided in order to ensure over-winter reserves —
will be two to three weeks later. This has implications for timing of grazing of
animals on rangelands.
Spring wheat will likely be replaced by winter wheat through most of the
Prairies. This offers opportunities for improved productivity and reduced
environmental impact. On the other hand, it does involve a fundamental change in
our cropping calendars and possibly our rotations.
There are opportunities for maize — corn — to replace other cereals and
for soybeans to replace canola throughout the southern and central Prairies.
There are now opportunities for grain production from new species, not
widespread currently on the Prairies due to thermal constraints.
I think the forestry issue was addressed earlier, so we will move on from
Some other key points: We can expect the average yields of canola and cereals
in Western Canada to increase from current levels by 10 to 30 per cent by the
end of this century.
The Chairman: For what reason?
Mr. Grant: It is because of the elevated CO2, because of
the elevated temperatures. We are a thermally constrained part of the world, so
the elevated CO2, the elevated temperature, presupposes that
precipitation will rise to some extent. The confidence with which we can make
that statement is less than that with which we can observe that the temperature
and CO2 will rise. Hence, there is a question there that needs to be
This increase will likely be larger in central and cooler regions. For
example, Peace River has been identified as an area in which productivity gains
will be in the upper end of that range. On the other hand, southern Saskatchewan
has been identified as an area where increases may be at the lower end of that
range or even nonexistent. This is because some of the current models do not
predict much of a rainfall rise for those parts of the world, which is
unfortunate, because those are the dryer parts.
The warmer regions and the dryer regions may experience very small increases
or no increases, the cooler, more humid regions, greater increases. This is a
consensus from a number of national and international studies, as well as
research conducted at the University of Alberta. This is really a summary of a
lot of research.
You asked about the basis for this rise. The magnitude of this increase will
depend on the amounts by which temperature and precipitation do rise. Let us
take a couple of scenarios, for example, southern Saskatchewan. If temperatures
were to rise by that 3-degree figure but precipitation were not to rise as is
currently projected by some climate models, then average yields will rise only
marginally, but their variability will increase. There may be increased
incidences of crop failure. Overall average yields on a longer-term basis are
likely to remain the same, but the interannual variability will be larger. I
think this has implications for insurance schemes, as well as issues of storage,
transportation in order to stabilize marketing and supply in the presence of
more variable production.
On the other hand, if temperatures were to rise by 6 degrees but
precipitation were not to rise — this is the extreme upper end of some of the
current projections for this area, so this might be called a worst-case scenario
— there is a possibility that average yields will decline and crop failure
will become more frequent. This is an area that is particularly vulnerable to
Grassland productivity will likely increase by 20 to 25 per cent. There are
issues of changes in species composition that we need to keep an eye on. This is
not an area that is strongly or well understood at this stage.
If we look at North America as a whole, much of the increased agricultural
productivity that is projected vis-à-vis climate change in North America is
expected to be realized by northward expansion of cultivation. It is possible
that as much as 60 million hectares of land will become available for
agriculture by the end of this century. We need to be aware, however, that much
of this land has soils that are not very fertile, and therefore their management
is going to be a key issue. There is corresponding northward expansions in
Siberia that will become possible, as well.
On the other hand, this expansion will be offset by loss of cultivatable
areas in many regions in Africa. I am going a little bit internationally here,
and I hope that is of interest to the committee. Some of the current
international projections are that there may be substantial losses of land, of
cultivatable area, in most regions of Africa, northeastern Brazil, and
These are zones that are at the margins of what is called the intertropical
convergence zone. This is a zone of intense rainfall that moves north and south
and is driven by orbital geometry areas. Many Mediterranean areas, for example,
which are in the northern periphery of that zone or the southern periphery of
that zone, as well as some tropical areas, are expected to experience reductions
in precipitation and consequent losses of cultivatable land and reductions in
productivity. This is of some importance, possibly for humanitarian reasons,
certainly for trade issues.
The Chairman: You covered an awful lot in a very short period, and for
that we thank you.
Senator Tkachuk: I just have one question, actually. Given that at the
beginning of the last century there were no planes and that today we are sending
satellites to Pluto and outside of our own solar system, do you believe that
technology will, over the next 100 years, providing we put our minds to it,
reduce CO2 emissions? Is that a hopeless pipedream?
Mr. Grant: Just to clarify, are these industrial emissions to which
you are referring or ecological emissions?
Senator Tkachuk: Well, how much is caused by something we cannot stop,
and how much is caused by something we can? We can only do what we can do. I do
not know. We interfere with nature many times, so maybe we can do it again.
Mr. Grant: I could go on and on about the squanderous levels of
industrial emissions in this country. There are vast opportunities for reducing
our industrial emissions with only modest changes to our lifestyles. Hence,
there are huge opportunities for complying with Kyoto by reducing our industrial
emissions. This is perhaps outside the purview of an agriculture and forestry
The Chairman: At what cost, though? Certainly cost is always the big
question in terms of reducing industrial emissions.
Mr. Grant: There is not a major cost, certainly, to my lifestyle, in
switching from an SUV to a fuel-economy car or turning down my thermostat by a
few degrees. I am running a little bit off topic here..
Senator Tkachuk: Well, this is kind of important for us. I know we are
looking at the effects of climate change, but almost everybody who appears here
says that most of the effects, and some may be natural, are a result of CO2
being released in the atmosphere, hence Kyoto and all these other things. If
that is what is happening, then it is something that we should be talking about.
We are a pretty big player in this CO2 emission game. China, India
and all these other countries are belching out CO2 with great
frequency, but there does not seem to be any concern that they reduce it.
Actually, Europe is not doing that great.
Mr. Grant: Their per capita emissions are a fraction of ours. It
should be understood that their per capita emissions are perhaps half of ours in
North America — and they live pretty well, I think.
Senator Tkachuk: However, they also live in very concentrated areas
too. The population there is 300 million people. It would be difficult for me to
drive around in a little mini in the wintertime. As a matter of fact, I do not
like driving a little mini in the wintertime, but they can do it, and good for
Do you think that we can actually achieve any of these goals?
Mr. Grant: Well, we will get back to agriculture and forestry,
perhaps. It is very important to know that the exchange of carbon dioxide
between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere globally is about 20 times our
industrial emissions. If we put out, say, about 6 billion tonnes a year of
carbon industrially, ecosystems themselves respire about 20 times that annually
into the atmosphere. Now, they fix about 20 times that, so they are in
approximate balance. The exchange of carbon dioxide between terrestrial
ecosystems and the atmosphere dwarfs our puny emissions. The problem is that our
emissions are not offset by any counteractive process in our industrial economy.
We only put out; we do not take up.
There is, however, considerable opportunity for us to manage our ecosystems
so as to enhance that massive uptake of which they are already capable and
perhaps, therefore, offset some of our emissions. This is the whole business of
carbon credits, which is emerging. It is really quite a large area of research
in the scientific community, and is emerging as, perhaps, even an economic issue
in the agriculture and forest industry.
There are opportunities through management — well, let us even stick to
agriculture — our agricultural ecosystems in such a way that we can maintain
and even enhance the level of carbon sequestration of which they are currently
capable. There are lot of good reasons to that. One, we offset, albeit
partially, our industrial emissions. Two, the vulnerability of these ecosystems
to climate variability, something which is projected to increase over the next
century, is very dependent on the quality of the soils on which we grow our
food, and that quality is directly related to the amount of carbon that we can
store in those soils. Soils that store carbon are able to store more water; they
are able to transfer that water; and they are much more effective at buffering
the variability of climate, and especially precipitation, than our soils, which
have been allowed to be degraded through the absence of soil and water
Senator Tkachuk: Even though we are studying climate change and
agriculture, we are the only committee in Parliament, as far as I know, that is
doing any work of this kind. This committee's report may be very valuable to
Senator Wiebe: Coming from Saskatchewan, of course, my concern is how
the adaptation will affect my province. However, we also have to look at how the
adaptation and the climate change is going to affect our country as a whole and
its ability to feed itself.
From what I can understand from the presentations that have been made to us
by C-CIARN and other scientists and research people is that, in terms of
agriculture, Canada is going to be a net benefactor. There may be areas where we
will not be able to produce grains, but there will be areas where we will be
able to continue to produce and other areas that will open up to us. Is this a
Mr. Grant: The short answer is, yes, that is a fair assessment.
Senator LaPierre: Professor, I do not have the knowledge of my
colleagues, nor do I have many opinions, but I have an enormous amount of
sentiment. We have heard an enormous amount of scientific appraisal of this
situation. The human question is this: Is this a disaster to which science has
no answer, where only human beings in their hearts have an answer? Is this a
Mr. Grant: I think there has been a tendency on the part of some in
the scientific community to overstate the potentially disastrous impacts of
climate change on our terrestrial ecosystems. These projections of massive
drought across the Prairies leading to, possibly, economic collapse of the
agricultural sector is an overstatement, in my opinion. The message we should be
taking away from climate change is that there are risks in certain parts of the
country. I gave some examples in my presentation.
There are, however, opportunities. A key issue is adaptation to those changes
that are going to occur. With foresight, with planning and with the appropriate
adoption of both mitigative strategies and adaptive strategies, there is no need
for a disaster to occur.
Senator LaPierre: Does the adaptation we talk about demand a change in
human values, a change of human nature? Or do we say to ourselves, ``All right,
technology will save us; pour our money into technology; it will save us at the
end of the day''?
Mr. Grant: We need to be aware of the fact that the ecosystems in
which we live and upon which we depend for our food, our fibre or, if we expand
our purview a little bit, our fish, sustain us; however, they themselves must be
sustained. Because we are the primary disturber of these ecosystems, it is
incumbent upon us to disturb to the point necessary for our sustenance, but not
to disturb in such a way that these ecosystems become incapable of sustaining
that productivity in the future. This whole question of climate change makes
this a more imperative issue.
Senator LaPierre: Will the technology do it?
Mr. Grant: No, I do not think so. I do not think this is primarily a
technological issue. This is an issue of living in balance with our ecosystems.
That balance is going to change as climates evolve. We must understand the
change in that balance and maintain that balance.
Senator Gustafson: In terms of what has happened, I go back on our own
farming practice. My grandfather came from Illinois. He first went to Yorkton,
but he could not grow wheat there because it was too cold, so he bought a farm
right on the U.S. border. In my experience, we could not grow rapeseed, or they
told us we could not grow rapeseed, but in the last 10 years, we have grown
canola, which is rapeseed. In the last three years or four years, they are
growing canola in North Dakota and South Dakota, if you will. Hence, technology
and the varieties have stayed ahead of climate change.
Maybe, just maybe, we will have to move to a softer variety of wheat, one
that will yield in warmer climates. What I am saying is that the experience of
the past 50 years has been that the advancement in better varieties
scientifically has stayed way ahead of climate change.
Mr. Grant: Absolutely. There is very strong evidence that global
temperatures have warmed by at least 0.6 of a degree Celsius since the middle of
the last century. There is a very strong warming trend in progress. This is
evident in the recession of glaciers. Certainly, the temperature records very
clearly indicate that warming is already in progress. The extent to which this
can be attributed to rising CO2 levels is under discussion, but
certainly this warming has led to a diversification of opportunity in
agriculture, absolutely. We are starting to see winter wheat, even in the
Prairies, which back in the 1960s was unheard of. I have heard talk of winter
canola moving north —
Senator Gustafson: They are trying it.
Mr. Grant: Yes. There are still some limitations there. These
directions to which you refer are expected to continue. Certainly, though,
warming is in progress, and people can adapt to this warming. I think there is a
real value to looking into the future to see where this warming is going to go.
One of the key concerns we need to be aware be is that as ecosystems
transition from their current state to a warmer state this transition may not
necessarily be uniform, smooth. There are, for example, thresholds through which
we go where suddenly processes start to change, and you move up to a different
sort of threshold. This can involve comparatively sudden changes to which we may
not be able to adapt unless we are aware that this adaptation may be necessary.
Yes, your observations are absolutely correct. There is currently a northward
expansion of varieties and crop types. This has been in place for at least the
last 50 years in response to warming that has already occurred. This process is
expected to continue.
Senator Wiebe: That adaptation that has taken place by farmers over
the last 100 years took place because agriculture had time to adapt. If I recall
your comments, the temperature has risen 1 degree in the last 100 years.
Mr. Grant: That is the upper end of it.
Senator Wiebe: You are now saying that in the next 100 years it is
going to triple, at a minimum up to 3.5 per cent, possible 6 per cent. Those are
pretty rapid temperature changes. Can the adaptation that we used in the last
100 years apply to the increase in rapid acceleration that is going to be
happening in the months or the years ahead?
Mr. Grant: That is really why we are here, is it not? I think our best
likelihood in light of historically unprecedented rises in temperature is to be
able to try to predict the adaptation that is going to be required. That is
really our best hope. The rates at which temperatures are projected to rise are
Although there is some degree of confidence in the climate projections that
are being made, there is an uncertainty factor, because ecosystems are known to
respond to these perturbations not in a step-wise sort of increase, but they
move through thresholds, much as, for example, El Niño arises from a threshold
development. Droughts occur. Droughts are, in a sense, a threshold response to
changes in precipitation patterns. There are thresholds through which ecosystems
can move that may require very rapid adaptation. That is what we need to be
Senator Fairbairn: In your studies, have you dealt with wetlands at
Mr. Grant: Yes. That is a very key area of research, absolutely. Not
myself directly, but colleagues with whom I work have certainly been involved in
How are they expected to respond to climate change? Is that your question?
Senator Fairbairn: Yes.
Mr. Grant: There are a couple of key concerns. One, increased
evaporation rates from these wetlands may possibly lower the water tables in
these wetlands. This will lead to an accelerated oxidation of the carbon
material of which they consist. This could lead to very rapid carbon losses out
to the atmosphere. It could also lead to increased incidences of peat fires.
Yes, that is an area of concern, the possible drying of wetlands. As
evaporation rates rise — I mentioned that a 3- degree rise in temperature, for
example, would lead to about a 25 per cent increase in annual evaporation rates.
On the other hand, we are looking at, perhaps, at best, an 8 to 10 per cent
increase in precipitation. For plants, that may not be such a concern. However,
if we are talking about open bodies of water or the sources from which wetlands
draw their reserves, there is a very strong possibility that those reserves may
be lost, may evaporate. This could lead to a subsidence of water tables, a very
rapid oxidation of carbon.
Wetlands are considered to be endangered, perhaps more so than agricultural
ecosystems; that is a particular area of vulnerability. There is a lot of
research ongoing at present in just what this means.
The Chairman: Thanks very much, Mr. Grant.
Our final witness this morning is Mr. Greg McKinnon. Please proceed, Mr.
Mr. Greg McKinnon, Forest Sector Coordinator, Canadian Climate Change
Impact and Adaptation Research Network: I am joined today by Mr. Kelvin
Hirsch, who you heard from earlier, who is the C-CIARN forest sector scientific
In my presentation today, I want to talk about three main elements related to
climate change in Canada's forest sector. First, I will briefly discuss
mitigation. While I do not wish to dwell on this aspect of the climate change
issue, I do think it is important to discuss the mitigative role that Canada's
forests are being expected to play in helping to ameliorate global warming and
to place the role and importance of adaptation in context.
Second, I will briefly discuss impacts and adaptation, or perhaps more
precisely, vulnerabilities and adaptation. Since this topic has been more than
adequately covered by others before me, I will confine my comments to the
overall objectives of adaptation and will not go into detail and specifics.
Third, and most important from my perspective, I will discuss the issue of
making climate change adaptation a reality. I will cover two aspects: one,
adaptive strategies and forest policies practices and research; and two,
delivery mechanisms. Last, I will summarize my presentation.
With respect to the question of mitigation or adaptation, this is the only
graph that I will show today. You may have seen it already, I do not know.
However, in order to set the stage for both mitigation and impacts and
adaptation, I think it is important to understand the relationship between the
two as well as the lingering effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
The graph I have up on the screen was developed by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change and was published in the 2001 synthesis report. The
graph is a generic one showing expected temperature effects, the red line, after
an assumed stabilization within 50 years from now and a reduction to a very
small fraction of current levels of global CO2 emissions, the brown
line, within the next 150 years or so. That represents the mitigation side of
the equation, and it is vitally important.
From an impacts and adaptation perspective, notice that even after CO2 emissions
are reduced and atmospheric conditions stabilize, surface air temperature lags
behind but continues to rise slowly for a century or more and in fact does not
show any sign of decrease over many centuries.
To summarize the graph, mitigation and adaptation are both vitally important
and are complementary. Adaptation is required no matter what mitigation scenario
is implemented and its importance and difficulty increases as mitigation is
delayed or remains unimplemented.
On the mitigation side, the Kyoto Protocol recognizes that carbon uptake in
forests can be used to offset emissions when calculating a country's net CO2
contributions to the atmosphere.
In the forest sector, there are two main elements in carbon management. The
first is decreased emissions. Decreased emissions can come, for example, from
reductions in use of fossil fuels in the forest industry or decreased soil
disturbance. The second element in carbon management is increased carbon capture
and storage. The attractiveness of forests in this regard is that forests
sequester carbon through photosynthesis and store carbon as biomass, both above
and below ground.
Some key questions, however, with respect to the role of forests and
offsetting greenhouse gas emissions are as follows: Will Canada's forests be a
net sink or a net source for carbon? Will management for carbon be in concert or
in conflict with other management objectives?
With respect to the first question, Canada's forests have changed over time
from being a strong sink for carbon to becoming a small source of carbon as a
consequence of large-scale disturbances such as fire and insects. The
probability of increased carbon release in the future appears to be much greater
than that of increased carbon accumulation. Put another way, on the global
scale, Canada's forests are likely to be the victims of climate change rather
than its saviour.
With respect to the second question, forest management, especially on public
land, encompasses a wide and varied set of objectives. There is significant
potential for conflict between management objectives for carbon and for other
attributes. On the emissions side, for example, there is likely to be increased
demand for biomass fuel to offset use of fossil fuels. Such potential biomass
fuels as harvest slash and standing dead trees often have significant
biodiversity in soil nutrient value.
Similarly, on the carbon capture and storage side, carbon management may
favour vigorous, fast-growing stands, and I would argue that such management may
be at odds with management for wood fibre quality or the biodiversity associated
with, for example, old growth forests.
With respect to the impact of climate change on Canada's forests, again, I
will not go into detail. As I indicated earlier in my presentation, I am fully
satisfied with the treatment of this topic by others before me. In general,
forests appear to be most vulnerable to change during regeneration and through
the impact of climate on disturbances such as fire and insect disturbance.
With respect to the former, that is, regeneration, drought is expected to be
the main cause of regeneration failure. With respect to the latter, climate
change is expected to increase the rate and severity of natural disturbances
with a couple of consequences. One, carbon dioxide emissions from the forest
will increase, and two, disturbance will accelerate the rate of change in forest
structure and profile.
Established forests are relatively resilient to the effects of climate
change, but when disturbed by, for example, fire, they will reset to an early
successional state, at which time non-targeted and invasive species may gain the
upper hand. In short, as climate is the cause of change, fire, insects and
disease are the agents.
The direct impact of climate change on the sustainability of Canada's forests
has national and global implications. Canada's forests represent a significant
percentage of the carbons stored globally in forests. The change in status of
these forests towards becoming a greater source of carbon rather than a sink
will have implications to the global CO2 balance sheet.
In terms of adapting to climate change, there are a couple of objectives to
keep in mind as we manage our forests into the future. The objective of
sustainable forest management is to maintain and enhance the long-term health of
forest ecosystems for the benefit of all living things; the objective of
sustainable communities is to provide environmental, economic, social and
cultural opportunities for present and future generations. In the context of
forest- based communities — that is, the maintenance of stable communities
that can continue to derive social, economic and cultural benefits from the
forest — neither of these two concepts is new. What is new, perhaps, in the
face of climate change is thinking of these as being two parts of the same
whole. Perhaps we should be managing our forests with our communities in mind
and, similarly, managing our communities with our forests in mind.
What should we as a society do in the face of present and foreseen climate
change impacts on our forests? I think that there are a number of things that we
can and should do. I have organized these loosely into three main themes —
forest policy, forest practices and forest research.
With respect to forest policy, firstly, let me explain that the definition of
forest policy used here encompasses both the legal and moral framework under
which forest management occurs. First, there needs to be an increased awareness
of the importance and immediacy of climate change issues to forest policy-makers
and managers. Senior decision makers need to become convinced of the reality of
climate change and the significance of the issues that it presents to forest
Second, there needs to be increased recognition that forest policy may need
to change dramatically to allow adaptation to climate change. One example might
be the intentional introduction of a tree species to an area that has never seen
them before. Third, the linkages between policy and research need to be
strengthened. Policy and research must feed each other. This really defines the
concept of adaptive management. Fourth, there needs to be an increased emphasis
placed on the application of vulnerability approach to climate change impacts
and adaptation. The vulnerability approach de-emphasizes precise knowledge of
future climate; rather, it emphasizes assessment of a sector's vulnerabilities
to present climate, then layers on expected changes. Emphasis is placed on
managing risk and strategic planning.
Fifth, there needs to be an increased focus on incorporation of
multi-stakeholder interests and forest policy development and reconciliation of
conflicting forest-management objectives, especially on public land.
With respect to forest practices, again, the definition used here encompasses
the full range of management techniques developed and implemented to meet stated
objectives. First, manage for resiliency, flexibility and diversity. The key
message is that, when managing under uncertainty, keep your options open.
Second, initiate forest practices now that make sense from a number of
perspectives, including climate change. For example, manage for fires, insects
and windthrow. The key element here is to manage to minimize the risk of
catastrophic disturbance from these agents. Third, apply adaptive management
strategies, initiate, monitor, reassess and revise. Forest practices, forest
policy and forest research are all linked in an adaptive management approach.
Fourth, pursue multi-stakeholder support for contentious forest practices
designed to ameliorate effects of climate change. Again, I will use the example
of introducing an exotic tree species.
On the research side, the key message is that research needs to be linked
directly to forest management policy and practices. One, there is a need to
determine key knowledge gaps and research priorities linked to on-the-ground
forest management policy and practices. Two, there is a need for researchers to
more effectively communicate research results to forest users. Three, there
needs to be increased focus on adaptation. To date, much climate change research
in the forest sector has been focussed on mitigation and impacts rather than on
adaptation. The latter needs to include research into motivating factors and
incentives for change. Four, there needs to be increased capacity and financial
resources dedicated to impacts and adaptation. In my view, present capacity both
in human and financial terms is clearly insufficient.
I will now talk about delivery mechanisms. On the research side, the Canadian
Forest Service is very well positioned to deliver on impacts and adaptation
research in the forest sector and should be at the core of any enhanced program
in the future. The department has a long history of world-class climate change
research in the physical, biological and socio-economic aspects of forests and
forestry. As well, it has the advantage of being national in scope and well
connected to both the forest industry and provincial governments.
The Sustainable Forest Management Network, which is part of the National
Centres of Excellence program and located at the University of Alberta as well
as other universities not part of the network, should be an important part of
the climate change impacts and adaptation research solution. To date, however,
most universities in Canada, including those in the network, have focussed
largely on the mitigation and carbon management side of the climate change
issue. In my view, both the network and individual universities should be
encouraged to have a greater focus on impacts and adaptation. The Sustainable
Forest Management Network has the advantage of being national in scope, while
other universities have a more regional focus.
Let me now move to the Model Forest Network. I want to dwell on this a bit.
Canada's Model Forest Network represents an initiative in building partnerships
locally, nationally and internationally to generate new ideas and on- the-ground
solutions to sustainable forest management issues.
If you will remember earlier in my presentation, I stated the twin objectives
of sustainable forest management and sustainable forest-based communities. The
Model Forest Network, I think, is uniquely positioned and perhaps tailor- made
to demonstrate climate change-related adaptive forest management and adaptive
forest community techniques and practices. It should be an important part of the
The next topic is provincial forest research branches and organizations. Many
provincial forest research organizations have declined in strength in recent
years. However, such organizations have the distinct advantage of being directly
connected to provincial policy development and delivery of sustainable forest
practices. These organizations should be strengthened.
On the topic of policy, again, as I indicated previously, the definition of
policy used here includes both the legal and moral framework under which forest
management occurs. Of course, with respect to the legal framework, the
Constitution Act confers exclusive authority with respect to the development,
conservation and management of forestry resources to the provinces. However,
with respect to the moral framework or social licence, a number of other forces
and players are directly involved in shaping forest policy; all have a bearing
on how forests are ultimately managed. These include certification bodies, for
example, the Forest Stewardship Council, the Model Forest Network,
non-governmental organizations, industry, and international markets.
On the international scene and in addition to markets, the moral framework
includes various international commitments, for example, the International
With respect to forest practices, forest practices, simply put, are the
on-the-ground application of forest- management policy. Again, these are driven
by both legal and moral obligations and codes of good practice.
On public land, multiple forest-management objectives are often in play,
which ultimately dictate appropriate practices. Some mechanisms for delivery
include industry, private landowners and provincial governments.
In addition to the above, I think that C-CIARN forests should have a
continuing role: first, to increase the awareness of forest-related issues,
involving impacts of and adaptation to climate change; second, to enhance the
capacity for and coordination of research on climate change impacts and
adaptation pertaining to Canada's forests; and third, to facilitate
communication about the impacts of climate change and options for adaptation
among researchers, forest managers, policy-makers and forest-based communities.
To summarize, climate change is real and temperature effects can be expected
to linger for centuries. There is a much greater probability that Canada's
forests will be a net source rather than a net sink for carbon. Options for
mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions through forest management are limited and
subject to conflict with other management objectives. More research linked to
policies and practices is required on impacts and adaptation. Forest policies
and practices should be adapted in recognition of present and expected climate
change impacts, again, the vulnerability approach. Forest management and
forest-based communities to be sustainable must incorporate climate change
Mr. Hirsch and I will be pleased to answer any questions you might have.
The Chairman: Thank you for that very excellent presentation. Mr.
Hirsch, of course, is no stranger to us, having appeared earlier this morning.
Senator Fairbairn: Prior to travelling, our committee received
background information on this subject matter. In my mind, one of the most
vulnerable areas in this whole equation seems to be the forests. I am quite
taken with what you are saying about how we develop the policy to surround them,
and you keep using the word ``moral.'' I am wondering if you could expand on
that a bit. When you talk about the moral impact of this, are you thinking in
terms of the ultimate pressure of climate change on forests resulting in a
profound — or could result, if not guided the way you are obviously thinking
of — stress on the sustainabilities of the communities, the lifestyle, the
people who are involved in this industry? Are we starting to see the thin edge
of the wedge?
Mr. McKinnon: That is an excellent question, and previous speakers
this morning have alluded to the rapidity of change, which is, and we expect to
Of course, there will be forests. Whether those forests in 10 or 20 or 30
years will look like the forests have looked in the last 100 is the big
question. Of course, communities have developed around the forest as we have
seen it over the last 100 to 200 years. They have developed socially, and they
developed economically around the forest as they have seen it. As that forest
changes, and if it changes radically, there will be significant questions about
whether our adaptive responses to that can be quick enough on the social and
economic fronts to be able to contend with it.
To get back with the earlier part of your question, when I was discussing
both the legal and moral framework, forest management is a very complex area and
certainly just not governed by the legal framework. Much of the forces that are
at play in terms of forest management involve international forces,
certification of products that come from the forest, and, of course, climate
change will have, perhaps, profound effects on international market forces
around the forest as well.
Some areas of the world may do better than others under climate change, and
if we expect Canada, for example, especially in continental and boreal forests
of Canada, to do relatively worse than other areas, then that will affect our
ability to sell our products internationally. Of course, all of those things
come down to a level of affecting industry and the communities that have
developed around that industry in Canada.
I think there is significant potential for what you described as profound
Senator Fairbairn: How do we as a committee, in terms of talking about
adaptation and trying not to forestall something that is inevitable, but how to
manage it, include, best include, recommend the inclusion of the people who are
in a sense the primary stakeholders, the people who work with the forest, the
people who live there, who have built communities around it?
Again, it comes back to that word ``communication.'' A lot of us, myself
certainly, are relative rookies on this whole subject. We need to be taught. Do
you have a thought about how you connect that link so it is not just
policy-makers, government and industry advising the people who are living there
what it is they ought to be doing? How can we get relevant feedback, not before
the game's all over and the decision is made? How do we factor in this
communication? These issues are complicated; as such, the real life part of it
has to be factored in at an early stage.
Mr. McKinnon: It is interesting that you raise this point. Last
evening, I gave my presentation to my wife to have a look at, to see what she
thought about it, and she said, ``People need to know this stuff.''
Senator Fairbairn: Exactly, and they have to understand this stuff.
Mr. McKinnon: It is a significant question. To the degree that we are
able to adapt to what is coming, we need to work together. Communities need to
work with policy-makers and decision makers. One of my concerns is that the
decision makers and senior people in governments do not seem to be on the page
yet in terms of the severity and significance of this issue.
Hence, it is no wonder to me that laypersons in communities and others in
industry are not taking this as seriously as they need to. I probably do not
have a good answer to the question of how we do that, but I think we need to
communicate this better, and we need to work together to try to find whatever
solutions can be found.
The Chairman: Mr. Hirsch, do you want to add to that?
Mr. Hirsch: One of the things we need to think about is that
adaptation is a social process. Even though we are talking about natural
ecosystems changing, adapting to that is a social process. The engagement of
people requires us to study people and human behaviour and making this link with
the social scientist. Just like we study new ways of growing trees and so on, we
need to study ways of getting the engagement of the public. There are some
unique processes out there that people are looking at for this whole process of
public advisory, capturing collective knowledge, and so on. The area of
adaptation is a science unto itself, one that needs people to come forward into
it. There is some work going on within government, within universities and so
Your question is a good one, because we are only going to be able to adapt if
we can look at what we need to do to change as humans and in terms of human
behaviour. It appears that some of the early results of this work is that it is
the connection, the very simple connection from a scientist talking about global
models to the person on the ground who sees in the last few years a change in
what is happening in their own place — the old adage of walking a mile in
someone else's shoes. That connection seems to very easily bridge the gap
between people thinking on global scales and those working or being affected
Mr. McKinnon: If I might add just one more comment. In my view, people
are thirsting for this kind of knowledge. People have been given a certain
amount of information about Kyoto and climate change, and I think that there is
thirsting for more technical information about what that will really do to, in
our example, forests.
The public is ready for this kind of information, but I do not know that I
have your answer about how to get it to them. As a research community, we have
not been very good in the past about communicating research and research results
to the public in general, and I think we need to be much better at it. The time
is right; the public is ready for this now.
Senator Fairbairn: Just one final comment, if I may. In terms of
climate change — and I am not talking about having marches and this thing —
there needs to be a table where conversations can take place. We have only been
at this for a few weeks, but I am impressed with the attitude of the people that
we are hearing from within the science community and government. They are
telling us the same thing, that they need to be helped by people whose lives
this is affecting and their expertise in living in these environments. There has
to be a common table for these discussions to take place at in the future.
Mr. McKinnon: We at C-CIARN are very much trying to do that. We had a
workshop in Prince George last week where we talked about many of these issues;
the participants came from a number of different backgrounds, including
environmental groups, First Nations, the forest industry and the research
community. It is a small start, but we had a very good conversation. There is a
real sense that there is no moral high ground on this particular issue. This is
a society-caused issue. We have to work together to fix it.
Although many of the past issues in forest management tended to be polarized,
there is a sense that this is in which we really can pull together to find some
solutions. I am hopeful that that is the case. We have only just started. We
have a long way to go, but this is definitely an area where we really need to
put a lot of effort.
Senator Wiebe: All the presentations by C-CIARN have been excellent.
When you look at the projected pictures of Canada in terms of the effect of
climate change, especially as it relates to our forests, there will be some
positive areas and some negative areas. It appears to me that our forests in
Western Canada are really the greatest forests at risk, in terms of Canada.
I am just wondering whether you people have had any opportunity to do any
scientific study on the stresses our forests will be put under with this climate
change. I am talking about stresses like drought, insects, disease, forest
fires, and this sort of thing. What will the cumulative effect be on our
forests? Those kind of stresses will be more frequent than in the past. Have you
had an opportunity to look into that as yet?
Mr. McKinnon: Yes. Many of the areas that you just described are many
of the areas of primary research. There is research ongoing in the southern
fringes of the boreal forest, looking at drought stress and what it is doing to
the southern fringes of the boreal forest. There is also a lot of research into
forest fires, natural disturbance, insect disturbance, and those sorts of
things. That is an example of the kinds of research projects that are going on,
and much of it out of the Northern Forestry Centre here in Edmonton.
Senator Wiebe: Some of those are conducted in the models that you have
established. Have you been able to study a group of trees that will suffer all
of those stresses within a period of time to see what kind of effect that tree
For example, one model may look at the stress a tree will suffer from
insects; another model will look at the stress from lack of moisture; another
model may look at fire. What happens to that poor tree if in a period of, say,
five years it comes under all of those stresses? Will that tree be able to
Mr. Hirsch: There are some studies that are looking at all of the
stresses together. I think your point is very good about moving beyond just the
modelling process and putting things on the ground. Some of the experiments are
doing exactly that, doing work in the field, looking at how they are responding
in the natural environment. We are looking not just at whether certain kinds of
poplars will survive drought but whether insects are going to be influencing
them at the same time.
When we talk broader landscape levels, then we move into processes such as
fire and so on. Those are items that are a little more difficult to study but
which need to be monitored. As areas are burned, we have plots, and we are
monitoring the re-vegetation of those areas — in other words, looking at how
fast this is happening and where.
Hence, there are a number of active studies occurring across Western Canada
in that regard.
Senator Wiebe: That is good to hear.
Senator Fairbairn: What about wildlife that is sustained by and itself
sustains the forest?
Mr. Hirsch: When Mr. McKinnon and I refer to forests, we are talking
about the entire ecosystem, the biodiversity and the various species that rely
on it. Hence, the interactions between the vegetation and wildlife species as
well as other components of the ecosystem are being looked at simultaneously.
Mr. McKinnon: I am a biologist by training, so it is certainly one of
the areas that is of interest to me. One of the concerns around the issue of
climate change is the speed and rapidity of change and the concern that
ecosystems may not be able to keep up with the pace of change. Vegetation may
shift, and some species are able to move more quickly than others and, hence,
will be able to move into other areas while other species will not.
We expect to see fragmentation of ecosystems and then introduction of new
species and exotic species being more the order of the day. There is a serious
concern about how wildlife will be affected because of the speed of change that
Senator Hubley: You mentioned that one of the ways that you are able
to communicate with the stakeholders is through workshops. You referred to a
workshop in Prince George, I believe. Would you tell us something about that
workshop, how well attended it was and who attended it.
Mr. McKinnon: The workshop took place last week. There were 140 or so
registered participants. We invited environmental groups, representatives from
the forest industry, First Nations, consultants who work in the forest industry,
government people from every province Quebec and west, and two territories.
There were a number of the research organizations affiliated with provinces, as
well as the Canadian Forest Service and many of the other research
The mornings were structured for presentations of the research, as we know
it, around climate change and its effects on forests and what the major
disturbances are expected to be. The afternoon session was dedicated to
determining where the knowledge gaps are, what the research priorities should
be, and acknowledging that we need to work together to arrive at solutions
related to adaptation.
The feedback about the approach we took was positive. It is not often that we
try to connect the research community with people who are actually out on the
ground, either in a community sense or an industry sense. It was an excellent
Senator Chalifoux: I should like to know how many community people
attended. I understand that you had researchers and the like, but what about the
average person who will be seriously affected by this?
Mr. McKinnon: I do not know the exact numbers, but there were some. We
invited, for example, the city council in Prince George. We also had
representation from smaller communities, both from Alberta and from B.C. As
well, there was participation from representatives of three of the four western
model forests who are well connected to communities as well. In addition, many
of the consultants and people who were there from environmental organizations
are also resident in small communities and are very familiar with the forest
issues. In total, we had quite good representation from small communities.
Mr. Hirsch: If I could just add, a few weeks ago we had a
community-based event in Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba. Perhaps Mr. McKinnon would
like to just comment on that, because it is related to your question.
Mr. McKinnon: In conjunction with the Manitoba Model Forest, we have
held two workshops in Manitoba, and there are more to come. One was based in the
agroforestry community of Lac du Bonnet, in eastern Manitoba. That event was
well attended by the community. We presented some of what I presented here.
We also held an event at a First Nations community, Little Black River, in
Hence, we are trying to move on all of those fronts, but there are a lot out
there. We can only be in one place at one time, but we are certainly trying to
engage all of those communities. We really do need to focus on small
forest-based communities, because they are the ones that are really going to be
Senator Hubley: What is your opinion on the importance of having local
and regional weather forecasting stations, to help you in your efforts, I guess,
to identify the impacts and then to help us adapt?
Mr. McKinnon: From my perspective it is important in being able to
increase the precision of the modelling around climate change. Obviously, the
more stations we have, the better off we will be with longer records.
In my presentation, I stressed that even if we do not have precise knowledge
of climate change we need to move on some of the vulnerabilities in the forest
sector. We know what those are, and we know that, as climate changes, whether to
a larger or lesser degree, there are some significant, particular issues that we
can move on now.
There is a desire on behalf of many forest companies, for example, to know
what the effect of climate change will be on their operating area, which tends
to be quite regional. However, many of the climate models are not yet very good
at predicting at a very local level what is going to happen. Hence, the more
stations we have, the more precisions we can get on our climate change model,
the easier it will be to bring some of the players in and convince them in terms
of their need to become involved and to pay attention to the issues. I think
certainly that is a concern.
Senator LaPierre: Since the beginning of this exercise, I seem to have
had only one issue in my mind, which has to do with people, and it is based on
the premise that this is the issue that will test our souls. It will demand the
resolution of it, will demand enormous changes in the way we govern ourselves,
in the way we relate to other countries, in the way we relate to nature and in
the way we relate to each other. It will demand enormous changes in mindset; it
will also demand of us not an adaptation but a creation of a new way of life.
We are in the midst of a time that demands a revolution. If I were religious,
I would say a spiritual revolution, but I do not understand spiritual in terms
of religious. Therefore, I have been pleading, sir, since the beginning of this,
why not have interdisciplinary studies? Where is the social scientist? Where is
the theologian? Where is the philosopher? Where is the poet? Where is the
musician? Where are the young?
The experts can give us some information, but then the social scientists and
the humanists could answer Senator Fairbairn's and others questions.
I am asking you to get your act together and to organize the
interdisciplinary nature of this issue; otherwise, all of this is useless,
utterly and completely useless. All we have to do in our report is to publish
the record of your research, magnificent and glorious as it is.
At the end of the day, we have done that, as you reminded me, with Kyoto. We
did not involve the people; yet, we will demand of them enormous sacrifices and
sums of money in order to be able to achieve our end.
I beg of you, sir, you and your institution, which is a great institution,
get the poet. Get the poet.
Mr. McKinnon: I agree. This is such a significant issue that we as a
society really need to come to terms with. It is scary in many ways; its
enormity is almost too big to grasp. We will only come to terms with it if we as
a society pull together.
Obviously, we also have our own backgrounds, our own areas of expertise, and
we try to do our little bit in that area of expertise, but it is really our
society that needs to come to grips with what is happening.
The Chairman: Yesterday, in Saskatchewan, we heard from professors who
had been studying this for years and years. Contrary to what you say, they say
the opposite. You say that there is a much greater probability that Canada's
forests will be a net source rather than a net sink for carbon. We were told
that a lot of research has been done, that with the use of trees and the
utilization of our forests they will, in fact, be a net sink.
Can you explain why your research is so different from what we heard
Mr. McKinnon: I will try. My comments come directly from recently
published research and literature. What it amounts to is that there may be some
increased productivity of forests as a result of enhanced CO2 in the
atmosphere, but even there, it is somewhat of a mixed bag, because we might not
get increased productivity. Accordingly to the most recent published literature,
those trees might be under greater stress as well and more subject to some
insect infestations. However, essentially, what will drive whether forests are
carbon sources or carbon sinks will be the effects of climate change itself on
the forest. We expect climate change itself to increase the rates of natural
disturbance such as fire, insects, wind events, and those sorts of things.
Those elements will actually cause a forest to discharge more CO2 on
a net basis than it uptakes, so it is the increased frequency of natural
disturbance that will move us more towards being a source than a sink for
The Chairman: Even with enhanced silviculture and enhanced planting in
Mr. McKinnon: Well, certainly it is possible through afforestation to
plant new forests and for those, obviously, through the process of
photosynthesis to take carbon out of the air. The predominant thinking in the
literature is that the natural disturbance from fire, insects and other agents
will far outweigh what we can gain from that.
That is not to say that afforestation programs are not good in and of
themselves. It certainly is a good thing to plant a forest where there has not
been one for, perhaps, decades. There is an uptake of CO2. There are
also other benefits from a hydrological point of view, from the point of view of
shelter and those kinds of things. As well, that biomass that is being grown can
also be used as biomass fuel to offset burning of fossil fuel.
There are many good reasons for afforestation programs. However, even with
those, Canada's forests, from more recent published literature, is expected to
be a net source of carbon. In fact, it is thought to be a net source now, and
the thinking is that it will move more towards a source as climate changes.
The Chairman: I appreciate that answer. Thank you very much, Mr.
The committee adjourned.