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Climate change requires intervention

By Frank Flegel

05/04/2016

REGINA — Dr. David Sauchyn is a research professor at the University of Regina’s Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC). He studies climate change, particularly as it applies to the prairies, and he believes if we are to survive what the current trends predict, we need intervention from philosophers and theologians.

“Fundamentally, it’s going to take a change in attitude where we place more value on human relations, families and communities and less of an emphasis on material things.” Politicians love to talk about economics and technology, said Sauchyn, but they won’t talk about values. Politicans won’t get up at election time and say we have to practice restraint, because it means our economy won’t grow.

Sauchyn visited the Panama Canal a few months ago and watched huge container ships going through the system, some with as many as 14,000 containers of consumer goods. “Think of all the resources it takes to make those things and transport them.” If we keep using up life giving resources, he said, “in a couple hundred years we’re all going to be toast.” But he’s mostly optimistic. “We’re smart people; we can figure out how to adapt.”

He recently presented his research to Adaptation Canada 2016, a conference on climate change held in Ottawa attended by 600 delegates, mostly from Canada but with representatives from the U.S. and Australia.

Sauchyn has been with the U of R for 34 years, first in geography where he researched environmental change. He began researching climate change about 20 years ago and in 2000 was involved in the creation of PARC. “It was established by the federal government to do the science that’s necessary to enable people to adapt to climate change.”

Ralph Goodale was the Minister of Natural Resources and he saw to it that it would be established at the U of R, said Sauchyn. “We tell governments, industry and communities what climate change looks like and they decide what are we going to do about it.”

Sauchyn says their research has shown that climate change is happening at an unusual rate. “Winters in Saskatchewan are much warmer than they used to be,” said Sauchyn, “the warm temperatures are not much higher but the low temperatures are much higher.”

There are advantages and disadvantages to that for farming and ranching, said Sauchyn. With a longer growing season fall crops can survive through the winter, but the warmer temperatures are also good for pests, diseases and invasive species.

“All this stuff is showing up in our crops, pastures and soil, in the forests. It’s not good.” But farming and ranching is the practice of adaptation, he said. Farmers and ranchers have always adapted to changes, mostly for economic or sustainable practices. “And anything that makes agriculture more sustainable also makes it less vulnerable to a changing climate.”

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