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Attitudes Regarding Climate Change in Beef Production Systems


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This paper analyzes data from a survey of Extension Agents in the Southern Great Plains. The survey explores agents' views on climate change, interactions with their constituents, and information needs regarding climate change and beef cattle production in the region. The vulnerability and resiliency of beef cattle production systems in the region are affected at the macro level by key social institutions and at the micro level by knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of agents and producers. This paper is an effort to better understand the social factors that contribute to system vulnerability and resilience. The paper explores socio-cultural dimensions influencing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors regarding climate change and ultimately management practices. A survey was administered to Extension Agents in the region exploring attitudes regarding climate change. We explore the notions of habitus, self- and cultural identity, place, social/ knowledge networks, as explanatory possibilities. The implications of this research will inform capacity-building resources, including decision-making support, as well as adaptation and mitigation management practices that will assist and empower producers and other stakeholders in the region to employ risk- and evidence- based information in their decision-making.

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Attitudes Regarding Climate Change in Beef Production Systems

  1. 1. Attitudes of Extension Educators Regarding Climate Change Dr. Terrie A. Becerra Dr. Gerad Middendorf Great Plains Grazing USDA-AFRI-CAP Kansas State University The Noble Foundation Oklahoma State University University of Oklahoma Tarleton State University This project was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2012-02355 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
  2. 2. Overview  Rationale  Vulnerability and resiliency of beef cattle production systems in the Southern Great Plains  Social factors can be a source of vulnerability and resilience  Objectives  To better understand the attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of Extension educators regarding climate change  Identify gaps in information and/or materials  Method  Results
  3. 3. Method Online survey Study Population: Extension Educators in Kansas and Oklahoma Response n % Surveys e-mailed KS: 228 (36%) OK: 410 (64%) 638 100% Surveys opened – Successfully delivered 370 370/638 58% Adjusted Response: Surveys Completed of Surveys Opened 226 226/370 61% By State Response KS: 90/228 (40%) OK: 112/410 (27%)
  4. 4. Demographics Gender (n=127) Response % Female 40 31% Male 82 65% No Response 5 4% Length of Service (n=127) Response % 5 years or fewer 44 35% 6 to 10 years 12 9% 11 to 20 years 31 24% 21 years or more 40 31% Race (n=202) Response % American Indian or Alaska Native 14 7% White 172 87% No Response 16 8% *Hispanic/Latino 1
  5. 5. What we asked What are Extension educators’ views on climate change? Is it happening? Role of human activities Other ‘6 Americas’ questions What are Extension educators’ interactions with constituents? Frequency & level of expressed concern Topics of concern Challenges you face in engaging your constituents What are Extension educators’ information needs? Information and resource gaps Capacity Information sources Topics in need of info Additional tools needed Gaps, attitudes, beliefs, perceptions Attitudes, Beliefs, Perceptions Gaps, information or material
  6. 6. Attitudes about Climate Change Question Yes & Sure Yes/No & Unsure No & Sure Do you think the climate is changing? 67% 19% 15% Agree Disagree I could easily change my mind about global warming and climate change. 45% 55% A lot Some A little Not at all How much had you thought about climate change before today? 19% 46% 32% 3% None to Low capacity Moderate capacity High to very high capacity What is your capacity to adequately answer your constituents' questions about climate change? 64% 30% 5%
  7. 7. Attitudes about Climate Change Which is the closest to your view . . . % Climate change is not happening. 4% Humans cannot reduce climate change even if it is happening. 29% Humans could reduce climate change, but people are not willing to change their behavior so we are not going to. 24% Humans could reduce climate change, but it is unclear at this point whether we will do what's needed. 42% Humans can reduce climate change, and we are going to do so successfully. 1% Human causes Unsure Natural changes Human & natural causes None, it’s not occurring Climate change is mostly caused by . . . (n=208) 29% 1% 61% 4% 4%
  8. 8. Question Not important Nottoo important Somewhat important Very Important Extremely Important Howimportantisclimatechangetoyou personally? 8% 27% 43% 20% 2% None Afew Some Most All Howmanyofyourcolleaguesshareyour views? 2% 25% 47% 27% 1% Low Medium High Very High Doyouthinkclimatechangeshouldbealow,medium, high,orveryhighpriorityforthe PresidentandCongress? ForExtension? 37% 32% 44% 44% 16% 20% 2% 4% Attitudes about Climate Change
  9. 9. How would you rate the level of concern about climate change you hear from your constituents? How frequently do your constituents express concerns to you about climate change? None Low Medium High Very HighNever Rarely Very Somewhat Frequently Frequently Frequently
  10. 10. Other range or forage management Grazing management 29%57% Other Weather variability (drought, heat, excess water) 82% Weather forecast information Soil loss Regulations 37% Agronomic decisions (e.g., crop type, seed variety, tillage, planting dates, etc.) 68% Alternative management practices45% Crop insurance 34% Disease Marketing Nutrient loss 6% Pests What are the topics of concern your constituents raise?
  11. 11. Whatarethegreatestchallengesyoufaceinengagingyourconstituents withclimatechangeinformation? Production-oriented  Knowledge/information  Adaptation/management  Information distribution  Government Mistrust, regulations, taxes Subjective, socio-cultural  Lack of interest, bias, culture of the area  Relevance—not personally affected  Skepticism  Trust, sources, lack of  Helplessness/Powerlessness of both educator & producer Interactions with constituents 135 Responses, Some of the themes identified:
  12. 12. Information Sources None 36 Agronomic/professional/trade Journals/professional associations 12 Universities, researchers of environmental change, scientific sources 11 Mesonet 10 Knowledgeable/trusted people; professionals; Jim Cantore 8 Media, News outlets, newspapers 8 Weather persons; meteorologists, state/climatologists; KU weather data personnel 8 Internet or websites 5 National Weather Service; Norman, OK 5 Extension (in-service trainings, experts) 5 List the top 3information sources you rely on regarding climate change (n=100)
  13. 13. USDA; USDA-ARS; NIFA Gov't/EPA websites Historical weather data NASA global climate change NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publications Animal Agriculture & Climate Change online course Bible Family Personal experience The Heritage Foundation Other information sources listed than 1 -3 times. Information Sources
  14. 14. Information Needs Topics requiring more information % Management practices for coping (with topics below) 75% Drought, uncharacteristic of historical norms 72% High temperatures (heat) uncharacteristic of historical norms 63% Unseasonable weather (for example: early warming in spring followed by hard freeze) 58% Extreme rainfall events 36% Other extreme weather events 34%
  15. 15. Additional Tools Printed materials 64% Online resources including decision aids 61% Presentations at meeting and conferences 54% Webinars 50% On-farm demonstrations 45% Videos 34% Podcasts 17%
  16. 16. Summary Views on climate change  Majority feel sure the climate is changing and it is from natural causes  94% do not believe they can adequately address the issue  65% rate importance to them personally as somewhat to extremely important, and a moderate to high priority for Extension  27% believe their colleagues do not share their views Constituent interactions  65% have heard no expressions of concern from constituents. Level of concern when expressed is split--51% none to low; 49% medium to very high  Topics of concern are production oriented  Challenges are both production-oriented and subjective, socio-cultural  Extension educators’ information needs?  Reliable sources to build a shared knowledge base for educators  Resources to distribute information to clientele.