It seems that the Canadian agricultural lobby has decided to begin kickstarting efforts to “develop” the far north, with the help of the Canadian government (unsurprisingly, since the efforts won’t be successful without subsidies). That news is based on an article published recently by Reuters.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture — which lobbies for roughly 200,000 farmers in the country — seems to consider the rapid changes occurring in northern Canada as simply a way to make a buck. That isn’t too surprising — it is a lobby group after all.
“Canada is one of the few countries where climate change may create some opportunities for growing crops in northern latitudes,” stated Rod Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Cha-Ching! (“We stand to benefit, while our competitors stand to lose/die out.” That must be music to a lobbyist’s ears.)
The tone of the Reuters coverage isn’t too subtle in its seeming support, which makes me wonder what’s going on behind closed doors. Here are some excerpts to give you an idea: “As global warming intensifies droughts and floods, causing crop failures in many parts of the world, Canada may see something different: a farming expansion. … Rising temperatures could open millions of once frigid acres to the plow, officials, farmers and scientists predict.
“… In the country’s three prairie provinces alone — vast swaths of flat land in central Canada covering an area more than twice the size of France — the amount of arable land could rise between 26% and 40% by 2040, Jarvis said. ‘Most of the improvements are happening in fringe areas of agricultural regions,’ he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. ‘Canada is in a better situation than much of the rest of the world.’
“Canada is the world’s largest exporter of canola, flaxseed, and pulses, government figures show, and is one of the top wheat producers. Farmers hope the country of 35 million will be able to capitalize on the opportunities presented by warmer conditions — including by exporting more food to other regions hard-hit by increasing heat and crop failure. … As rising heat and more extreme weather cut harvests in some southern regions, hungry mouths across the developing world may turn to northern nations like Canada for help, experts predict.”
To be fair, the coverage does make note of the reality that such development won’t be cheap, and will require new irrigation systems, roads, and associated infrastructure; as well as the regular import of vast quantities of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and equipment. All of that will very likely depend upon government help if it is to be accomplished.
But … the article doesn’t even take into consideration the reality that if the northern parts of the country are to be turned into agricultural land — land which simply wouldn’t be productive without massive fertilizer, pesticide, and fuel inputs — then that means that the vast majority of the carbon now stored there will be released incredibly rapidly, as the land is “developed.”
To say that again: if industrial agricultural systems were to be deployed on a mass scale in northern Canada, then the carbon stored in the region would be released rapidly.
Other issues include the reality that synthetic fertilizers are going to become more and more expensive as the next few decades go by, crop-damaging storms are likely to become more common, pests and diseases will be moving northwards as temperatures climb, and the whole region may well dry out substantially as temperatures continue climbing.
You may recall that the Canadian prairies experienced extreme Dust Bowl conditions during the 1930s just as the US did — primarily owing to drought and imported approaches to agriculture that weren’t/aren’t well suited to the regions in question.
The flash drought in the Upper Plains that we reported on recently, which destroyed vast quantities of this year’s wheat crop, is probably a good proxy for what’s to become normal in the region before too long.
So, all of that said, why is there now a push to loot the Canadian north? Anything to make a quick buck?
Image via Wikitravel (some rights reserved)
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