A recent study by Purdue and Iowa State universities show that farmers and scientists don't agree on climate change or its possible causes.
Climate change is both a potential gain and threat to U.S. agriculture. Warmer temperatures could extend the growing season in northern latitudes, and an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide could improve the water use efficiency of some crops. But increases in weather variability and extreme weather events could lower crop yields.
Purdue University associate professor of natural resource social science Linda Prokopy and fellow researchers surveyed 6,795 people in the agricultural sector in 2011-2012 regarding their feelings and beliefs on climate change. They were asked whether they felt variation in the climate was triggered by human activities, natural causes or an equal combination of both.
More than 90% of the scientists and climatologists surveyed said they believed climate change was occurring, with more than 50% attributing climate change primarily to human activities.
In contrast, 66% of corn producers surveyed said they believed climate change was occurring, with 8% pinpointing human activities as the main cause. A quarter of producers said they believed climate change was caused mostly my natural shifts in the environment. Another 31% said there was not enough evidence to determine whether climate change was even happening.
Though several studies indicate agriculture is contributing to climate change, focusing on the causes of climate change is likely to polarize the agricultural community and lead to inaction, said study co-author Lois Wright Morton, professor of sociology at Iowa State University.
Related: Reducing Climate Change Risk for Ag
To foster productive dialogue, she said, scientists and climatologists need to "start from the farmer's perspective."
"Farmers are problem solvers," she said. "A majority of farmers view excess water on their land and variable weather as problems and are willing to adapt their practices to protect their farm operation. Initiating conversations about adaptive management is more effective than talking about the causes of climate change."
The gap in views on climate change is caused in part by how individuals combine scientific facts with their own personal values, Morton said.
The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.