Date: 25 Nov 2006

Vulnerability and adaptation to climate risks in Ontario agriculture

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Abstract

A vulnerability approach to climate change adaptation research is employed to explore prospects of agricultural adaptation to climatic variability and change. The methodological approach focuses on the system of concern, in this case, farms in Perth County, Ontario. Twenty-five interviews and four focus groups with farmers were used to identify climate risks on farms, and to document farmers’ responses to conditions and risks associated with climate and weather. The information collected describes a complex decision-making environment, with many forces both external and internal to the farm operation influencing management decisions. Within this environment, climate and weather are consistently referred to as a significant force influencing both farm operations and management decisions. Farmers have, however, developed a wide-range of anticipatory and reactive management strategies to manage climate risks. While these have potential to address future climate-related risks and opportunities, there are limits to adaptation, and an increase in the frequency of extreme events may exceed their adaptive capacities. Farmers are also generally unaware and/or unconcerned about future climate change, which could constrain opportunities to adopt long-term climate change adaptations.