COS 104-7 - Climate change education and outreach for agriculture through dialogue and deliberation

Thursday, August 11, 2011: 3:40 PM
Ballroom B, Austin Convention Center
Julie E. Doll, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, MI and Claire N. Layman, Michigan State University Extension, East Lansing

Field crop agriculture plays a key role in climate change. Growing and harvesting field crops contributes to greenhouse gas emissions through practices such as fertilizer application and soil tillage, and farmers can help to mitigate climate change by using techniques that increase soil carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers stand to be greatly affected by the changing climate: changes in temperature and precipitation patterns will affect plant growth, yields, and insect and disease outbreaks.  For agriculture to both adapt to and mitigate climate change, farmers need to be engaged in the process. They need knowledge and skills to adapt to the changing climate and to implement techniques that mitigate climate change. Impediments to doing so include their perception of climate change and the real and perceived difficulties they face adopting climate mitigation farming strategies. In order to overcome these impediments, innovative education and outreach efforts are needed. Here we discuss a project aimed at helping Michigan State University field crop Extension Educators, who work directly with farmers, develop climate change programming. We held a series of focus groups in Michigan with farmers to learn about 1) their opinions and perceptions of climate change and agriculture and 2) climate change outreach and education needs.


Preliminary results indicate that while farmers believe environmental conditions have been changing, they are less certain about “climate change” and their ability to do anything about it. Interestingly, farmers mentioned adaptations they are doing as a result of climate change, but that are not often discussed in the scientific literature. An example of this is adapting to more variable weather patterns by buying larger farm equipment so that cropping practices can be completed faster. Farmers also expressed frustration they were being blamed for damaging the environment, when they were growing food to feed a growing population and were stewards of the land. They expressed gratitude at the opportunity to speak about the topic of climate change with others and have their voices heard. We will use a modified “deliberation with analysis” approach to help Extension Educators recognize and weigh decisions about various approaches to climate change educational programming. The National Academy of Sciences recommends using “deliberation with analysis” as the method that will best support decision-making around climate change. Here we share what we learned through the focus groups and our experience using the deliberative process to develop climate change educational programming.

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