U of R professors lead prairie report on climate change

News Release Release Date: December 7, 2020 7:00 a.m.

Lead author, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, and Director of the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC), Dr. David Sauchyn, and contributing author and Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Studies, Dr. Amber Fletcher, are among a number of researchers whose work will be featured in a Prairies-focused report released on December 7.

Canadians across the country are experiencing the impacts of climate change – from drought and wildfire to flooding and extreme heat – highlighting the need not only for action, but for sound evidence to guide climate adaptation policy in Canada. Through the research of some of Canada’s most regarded scientists and informed by Indigenous and local knowledge, the Prairie Provinces chapter reveals specific challenges, observations, and opportunities for our region, including increasing severity of floods, drought, and wildfires; the specific threats and opportunities facing agriculture in the Prairies; and the role of cities in adaptation planning.  

The Prairie Provinces chapter is the first of several chapters from the Canada in a Changing Climate: Regional Perspectives Report to be released from the Government of Canada as part of the collaborative national assessment of how and why Canada’s climate is changing, the impacts of these changes, and how we are adapting. These products will serve as a resource for Canadians, raising awareness of the key issues facing our country and providing information to support sound adaptation decisions and actions.

“We must continue to make progress on climate action. This report will help us better understand the impacts of climate change on the Prairies, so we can prepare and respond.”

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan
Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources

Join us December 7 at 1:00 pm CST for the release of the Prairie Provinces chapter of Canada in a Changing Climate: Regional Perspectives Report, one of several national assessment products led by Natural Resources Canada. Dr. Sauchyn will be featured, along with other authors representing the U of R and the Prairie Provinces chapter, as well as representatives of Natural Resources Canada. Register for the event here: https://bit.ly/PrairieChapterEvent


Full interactive Prairie Provinces chapter online

Canada in a Changing Climate, the National Knowledge Assessment


About The University of Regina:

The University of Regina—with campuses located on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 territories, the ancestral lands of the Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Lakota and Nakoda nations and the homeland of the Métis—is a comprehensive, mid-sized university that traces its roots back to the creation of Regina College in 1911. Today, more than 16,600 students study within the University's 10 faculties and three federated colleges (Campion College, First Nations University of Canada, and Luther College). The University of Regina has an established reputation for excellence and innovative programs that lead to undergraduate, master, and doctoral degrees.

About The Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC):

The Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative is a climate change research centre at the University of Regina. PARC’s mission is to provide scientific research that delivers practical and regionally relevant climate data, information and knowledge in support of adaptation to climate variability and change. PARC staff also provide university education and professional development in the emerging fields of climate change science and impact assessment.

Media Contacts:

Mindy Ellis
University Advancement & Communications
Phone: 306-581-4541
Email: mindy.ellis@uregina.ca

Dr. David Sauchyn
Professor, Geography and Environmental Studies
Director, Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative
Phone: 306-337-2299
Email: david.sauchyn@uregina.ca  

ENGLISH: Fiona Warren
Knowledge Assessment Manager, Natural Resources Canada
Gestionnaire d’évaluation scientifique, Ressources naturelles Canada
Telephone / Téléphone: (343) 543-8419
Email / Courriel: Fiona.Warren@canada.ca

FRENCH: Nicole Lulham
Senior Science Assessment Officer
Agente d’évaluation scientifique principale
Telephone / Téléphone: (343) 553-3185            
Email / Courriel: nicole.lulham@canada.ca


Prairie ecosystems will shift and transform as the climate warms

As species respond to climate change, large regions of boreal forest could transition to aspen parkland and grassland ecosystems, while entire mountain ecosystems could disappear. Although biodiversity could increase overall, some species will be lost if the rate of warming exceeds their ability to adapt. Adaptation interventions are based mainly on standard conservation strategies— such as reduction of anthropogenic and other stressors and disturbances—and minimizing barriers to movement.

Floods, drought and wildfires are getting worse

Extreme weather events of amplified severity will likely be the most challenging consequence of climate change in the Prairie Provinces. The impacts of flooding, drought and wildfire in recent years are unprecedented, and climate models suggest an increased risk of these events in the future. Provincial and municipal governments have responded by proposing policies, structures and practices to reduce the impacts of future extreme weather events.

Collaborative water management reduces negative impacts

Regional land-use policy and planning, as well as emergency preparedness, are critical for reducing the impacts of flooding and drought in the Prairie provinces. Collaboration is needed among all levels of government, and with stakeholders such as watershed stewardship groups, rural municipalities and conservation districts, to implement these adaptation measures and to promote practices that prevent or minimize adverse effects of water excesses and shortages.

Climate change brings both benefits and threats to agriculture

Prairie agriculture, particularly crop production, may benefit from higher temperatures and a longer growing season. Achieving net benefits will require adaptation to limit the impacts of climate extremes, including on water availability, and the increased risk of pests, vector-borne diseases and invasive species. Although agricultural producers are highly adaptable to fluctuations in weather and climate, barriers to adaptation include limited information and awareness of climate change impacts, combined with limited financial resources and institutional support.

Social groups have unique vulnerabilities and strengths

The impacts of climate change may exacerbate existing societal inequities, especially among Indigenous peoples, women, people of low socio-economic status, youth and the elderly. Public policy and adaptation planning should consider the unique vulnerabilities and strengths of these social groups, and also the means by which race, age, gender and poverty amplify vulnerability or resilience to climate hazards.

Adaptation planning helps to reduce climate risks

Cities are at the forefront of adaptation and resilience planning in the Prairie provinces. Governments and businesses have begun to assess climate risks and develop adaptation strategies, but few sector-specific plans and policies consider future climate risks, leaving some firms, governments and sectors unprepared. Assessing the effectiveness of adaptation measures and meaningful reporting of progress would help achieve climate-resilient communities and local economies.


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