Contact Information

  • - Dr. David Sauchyn:


Principle Investigator: Edward Cloutis

Co-Investigators: Anke Kirch, Jillian Golby, Grant Wiseman, Darcy Carter


Climate change is a phenomenon that is receiving increasing worldwide attention. While substantial research has been carried out on the potential effects of climate change in the Canadian Prairies at the regional, provincial, and individual farm levels, no studies have evaluated the socioeconomic impacts of these changes at the community level. In addition, despite the increase in media attention, many people at the community level are still uninformed and confused about the potential biophysical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change. The research presented in this report assessed the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture and forestry, and evaluated the detailed impacts on six rural municipalities in the Canadian prairies. The research project was designed as an evolutionary model, allowing for progressive improvements in functionality and sophistication. An initial model in the form of a software toolwas developed and established: the Socio-Economic Analysis (SEA) model. The model is designed to examine the socioeconomic impacts of climate change on agriculture and forestry in prairie communities and to aid these communities in determining the economic impacts of various adaptation strategies. It is flexible and interactive and can accommodate various standard or user-defined scenarios. The base data used in the SEA model includes biophysical data published by various authors, as well as economic and socioeconomic data from various government agencies. The output from various iterations of the SEA model shows that climate change impacts on agriculture mostly depend on the chosen scenario, while all forestry scenarios agree that grassland and other vegetation types will extent northwards, thereby reducing the amount of boreal forest in the three Prairie provinces.

The main output from this research is an easy-to-use, transparent software model with the capabilities to analyse and display climate change impacts for individual Prairie communities.The individual objectives achieved in this study included:
•Development of a Socio-Economic Analysis (SEA) software program which examines the economic impacts of climate change on agriculture and forestry in the three prairie provinces at the rural municipality level and provides guidance in terms of the economic impacts of various adaptation strategies;
•Extensive consultations with partner Prairie communities in order to identify their needs for a climate change tool, such as the Socio-Economic Analysis (SEA) model, and the development of an extensive network of community partners for further model development;
•A thorough review of existing vulnerability and climate change models;
•Identification of socioeconomic activities vulnerable to climate change;
•A determination of the most relevant and accessible socioeconomic measures for use in the SEA;
•Collection of existing data on biophysical vulnerability to climate change in the Canadian Prairies;
•Assembly of relevant socioeconomic data on a community level.
The modelling team hosted and attended workshops and meetings with RM representatives in order to identify the needs of the users. A literature review was carried out on the issues of climate change, vulnerability and adaptability with special regard to the Canadian Prairies. Socio-economic measures suitable for use in model development were reviewed. The review revealed that, geographically, agriculture and forestry were the most vulnerable activities in the Prairies. Published data on impacts of climate change on agriculture and forestry were collected into a database, as well as sector employment, which was the most readily accessible parameter to evaluate socioeconomic impacts. The biophysical and socioeconomic data was entered into Microsoft Excel and Access databases. The SEA model was designed based on the available data. The model completed to date is a core component that can be extended in the future. The next step will be to build other submodels, when the necessary funding is secured. The initial version of the model was developed for six test locations: in Manitoba the RMs of Stanley and Swan River; in Saskatchewan the RMs of Indian Head and North Battleford; and in Alberta the Counties of Stettler and Athabasca. The model was programmed using Visual Basic 6.0.