Living in the Canadian province of Quebec, I’ve dreamed of having a longer outdoor growing season. Like many places, our summers are beautiful here, but far too short. A new study says I might one day get my wish, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the findings suggest that climate change could make most of Canada more farmable.
That means a large portion of Canadian soil will likely be able to grow major crops, such as wheat, soy, corn, and potatoes.
Right now, there are only a million square kilometers of land warm enough to grow those food crops.
If greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures continue to climb, researchers predict that by the year 2080, the farmable land area will expand to 4.2 million square kilometers.
Even the Northwest Territories and Yukon could warm up enough to grow food.
The picture is the same around much of the world. Researchers combined models that predict the future climate with those showing ideal temperatures for growing 12 major crops.
If their findings are correct, 15.1 million square kilometers of agricultural space will open up across the globe. That’s 30% more land than what we currently use.
While it’s true that we need to grow more food to feed an increasing population, these findings shouldn’t be celebrated.
Negative environmental impacts are plenty and include:
- More greenhouse gas emissions. The study says 177 gigatonnes will be released from the soil every year (119 times the current annual amount released by the US).
- The destruction of habitats for plants, animals, and insects.
- The degradation of drinking water for millions of people.
Krishna Bahdur KC, a study co-author and professor of geography at the University of Guelph, says we have to be mindful when it comes to expanding agriculture.
That means focusing on regenerative techniques, as explained in many articles by Garden Culture’s Evan Folds.
It also means protecting various natural resources that help store carbon, such as boreal forests and peatlands in Northern Canada.
Not all hope is lost. Let’s just do it right.