Agriculture Expert: “Mitigation is not yet really something our society wants to talk about”

An article at EE News (via John Fleck’s Twitter feed)

“Talking about mitigation is likely a non-starter with 60 percent of farmers,” said J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., an Iowa State sociology professor who conducted the Corn Belt poll. “That is one thing I’ve been talking about with my extension colleagues. And that’s a key finding out of this study.”

It’s not hard to find denier sites gloating about the study as if it were good news. As usual, neither the press nor the blogs bother to provide a link, but we do.

“Most of the farmers will admit that climate change is happening,” [agriculture outreach professional Doug Wilson] said of the growers he advises in western Kentucky, on the Corn Belt’s eastern fringe. “What they don’t want to hear is that it’s global warming induced by man’s activities. In their mind, if we say, ‘Yes, we think climate change is real. Yes, we think global warming is happening,’ then someone is going to say, ‘You are a big cause of it. You use fertilizers and chemicals and big tractors, and we’re going to regulate you.'”

And that means that simply throwing more information at farmers isn’t the answer for scientists and others who want to start a productive conversation about climate change and agriculture, experts said.

Those who complain about the flaws in “the deficit model” will enjoy that without pausing to ponder who those “experts” are. I still think the case is unproved. If we are taught to shy away from the truth, people will consider the truth just another fringe opinion. Of course they won’t be convinced the first time they hear something like this! Be serious.

But adaptation is easy to sell.

Paul Vincelli, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Kentucky’s agricultural extension, learned that lesson the hard way. As part of the school’s working group on climate change and agriculture, he prepared a dense handout packed with scientific facts and figures that “provoked a little blowback” from farmers, he said.

These days, he’s trying a different line when he speaks about climate change with county extension agents and farmers: “I tell them this is not something you’ve caused — we’ve all caused it.”

Like many agriculture experts working on climate change issues, Vincelli believes farmers are much more receptive to aid intended to help them adapt to environmental shifts, whether it’s developing new drought-tolerant strains of corn or wheat or adopting more efficient irrigation practices.

“Mitigation is not yet really something our society wants to talk about, and that’s reflected in our farmers,” he said.

What a pity adaptation without mitigation is unworkable. But don’t say that; people distrust news they don’t want to hear, so we need to hide it, right? Because the deficit model.


  1. Pingback: Another Week of GW News, October 14, 2012 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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