What farmers believe about climate change

Findings from a survey published in January in Climate Change Letters offer interesting insights about farmers’ attitudes about climate change. The Iowa State University-based research group surveyed nearly 5,000 farmers in 11 states spanning the Corn Belt, including some in Wisconsin. Two-thirds of those surveyed believe that the climate is changing, but only 41 percent believe that it’s mostly or partly caused by human activity. Thirty-one percent were uncertain, and 3.5 percent don’t believe the climate is changing.

Not surprisingly, farmers’ beliefs about climate change and its causes affect their concerns about potential impacts and their attitudes about efforts to mitigate. Those who believed that climate change is occurring and human-caused are significantly more likely to express concern about impacts and to support adaptive and mitigative action. Those who attribute climate change to natural causes, were uncertain about whether it is occurring, or did not believe that it is occurring were less concerned, less supportive of adaptation, and much less likely to support government and individual mitigative action. However, large proportions of farmers who do not believe that climate change is occurring or are uncertain also report that they are concerned or very concerned about drought, high heat and damaging precipitation. Only 23 percent of those surveyed think the nation should do more to reduce emission of greenhouse gases from their farm operation.

“[B]ecause few Corn Belt farmers support actions to reduce GHG emissions, outreach that focuses on mitigation is not likely to resonate with a majority of farmers. However, many of the best management practices (BMPs) that are most appropriate for reducing vulnerability also have substantial mitigative properties through carbon and nitrogen management … (which) suggests that promoting dual-purpose practices could be an effective way to achieve both adaptation to and mitigation of climate change,” the authors conclude.