Is There a Climate Emergency?

I think that the sound of raindrops is growing a little bit old. However, that continues to happen in southwestern Ontario as farmers all face the challenge of our careers. I still have hopes of getting planted, but I very much understand how everybody feels. I’m there with you, just like a lot of others in the Eastern Corn Belt.

Needless to say, it’s no fun watching the weather and lamenting where we are. Let’s just say that we hope to get there by the July 5th crop insurance deadline in Ontario. All the rules have been broken this spring and the management has been adjusted radically. All I know is next year will be different. It might be so hot dry in April everything might get planted. In agriculture, the only constant we have is transformation.

Despite our grooving in soybeans, there was some exciting news last week. The Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship and there was a parade with over 1 million people in the streets of Toronto. As all of you know I’ve been a NBA fan in Canada my whole life. It was a great moment finally seeing the championship on Canadian soil. I still bleed Pistons blue, but I’m allowed to be a Raptors fan when my team is not playing.

At about the same time that the NBA championship was landing in Canada the House of Commons passed a motion to declare a “national climate emergency” in Canada. The motion was put forward by the Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna. It passed the House by 186 votes versus 63 negative. In terms of timing, it was completely drowned out by the Raptors victory, but it was telling just the same. Climate change is real and their needs to be an attempt to rein it in somehow.

Of course, I’m under no illusion that the Minister declared a climate emergency vote in the house because of politics. We do have a federal election that is coming to us in October and Canadians recognize climate change as a big issue. However, most of us have many different opinions on how that must be dealt with. I know that I have no solutions, but I’ve seen evidence of it up close in Bangladesh and I find it hard to argue with the science. Needless to say, as a Canadian farmer I’m dealing with climate all the time, even more so in this brutal spring of 2019.

Keep in mind I have always believed that climate change will benefit agriculture in the polar countries like Russia and Canada. It stands to reason if climate change science is showing that Canada is warming at twice the global average, many people might think that is a good thing. I mean it gets cold here in the wintertime. Ditto for Russia. That should translate into better cropping opportunities for all of us. However, it doesn’t necessarily work out that way, there are consequences for that too.

I repeated that argument to a couple of American friends last year. I was somewhat surprised by their answer. They concurred that northern climates agriculture might benefit from a warmer climate, but southern climates, like those in the United States are being affected too. They are getting warmer with the inherent problems that can go along with that. Finding a path forward was a compelling argument to them, even in an American political environment where it’s almost a non-starter.

Keep in mind; I don’t believe paying the $20 carbon tax proposed by our Liberal government will return our Canadian climate back to normal. This is expected to rise to $50/tonne in 2020. There are a whole host of problems with it, especially on how it affects rural Canadians. However, despite my issues, I believe climate change is real. Unfortunately, there is a lot of in between with regard to this issue.

Earlier in my career, I wrote a lot about carbon sequestration on farms and how that might ultimately be a revenue source for Canadian farmers. 25 years ago when I wrote about pricing carbon I used the price of $80/tonne to calculate benefit. However, in this current debate about “carbon pricing” and putting a price on pollution, that’s all been lost. There is barely a mention, especially in this super charged political environment.

Is there a climate emergency? I don’t think so, that has more to do with politics than reality. However, climate is changing and even though it should generally benefit polar countries agriculture, there are always variations on the theme. For the most part, society seems to be buying into the argument. The challenge for Canadian farmers is to transform us to meet that future. Carbon sequestration was one way, a good re-do on that genre would make us well placed. As it is now, we’re simply going to be paying more tax and our climate will continue to change.