Posted by: climatewonk | April 23, 2008

Adaptation to Climate Change in the Canadian Plains

I spent the day attending a conference on adaptation to climate change in the second most vulnerable part of Canada — the Palliser Triangle. The conference brought together researchers, academics, policy people and activists to examine and discuss the evidence of climate change in this area and what issues relating to adaptation to climate change exist for vulnerable communities. Paleoclimate research using lodgepole pine cores dating back a thousand years suggests that this area experiences frequent decadal droughts. Indeed, when Palliser explored this area in the 18th C, he wrote back that no settlers should be brought here since it was so dry and could not support settlement. Of course, settlers came and broke the land, starting farms and communities. The dustbowl of the ’30s threatened to return the area to its former state, but innovative responses including the development of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Centre and the Special Areas in Alberta helped those residents who did stay adapt, with new farming techniques and irrigation projects. The area turned into one of the richest grain and cattle farming areas in Canada — part of Canada’s and the world’s breadbaskets.

Adaptation to climate is part of what makes humans what we are — able to live virtually anywhere in any climate. As the moderator of the conference said, we are in for up to several degrees of warming, based on the best scientific knowledge, and so we had better start planning now for how we will adapt.

In other words, denialists can make this or that claim about data or scientists or errors in papers, but the evidence is clear that climate has already changed and is due to change even more in the next century. The time for senseless debates over hockey sticks and graphs and the like is over. The time to talk about solutions, including mitigation and adaptation is now.

More on the conference later.


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