Are farmers the climate change sceptics they claim to be?

Climate Change is a shared responsibilty

Research has shown that 2 to 4 times as many farmers identify as human induced climate change sceptics compared to the community in general. In contrast to this lack of alignment with 97% of scientists and the community, up to 90% of surveyed farmers acknowledged using climate change adaption and mitigation strategies.

So the question is “why” do so many farmers prefer identify as sceptics? This article by Gabrielle Chan in The Guardian – Climate change is spoken of in hushed tones but it wasn’t always this way provides some excellent insights.

Peter Holding, grain farmer, Climate Champion and founding member of the farmer group (shortly to be officially announced) Farmers for Climate Action recently made this observation on the ABC. Source

“I don’t think it’s any secret that debt levels are pretty high in the farming community.

“That makes some farmers, I believe, reticent to talk about climate change when they’re talking to their banks because they have to prove that they’re viable, and they might not be under a new scenario of reduced yields and productivity.”

 As a farmer myself and coming from a family who prefer to talk “climate variability’ rather than “climate change’ I found the research by Laurie Buys et al titled ‘Perceptions of climate change and trust in information providers in rural Australia’ visionary on the subject of “why” and resonated with me.

I was particularly interested in the findings of Norgaard (2006) that emotions also play a part in constraining people’s willingness to address climate change. With agriculture identified as the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases I feel farmers have been blamed for climate change for so long that they would prefer to be seen to be sceptics as  “a means of fending off the unwanted feelings of insecurity, helplessness and guilt that are sparked by thoughts of climate change, its causes and ramifications.”

Farmers are on the front line of climate change and they are clearly adapting at a rapid rate and highly committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and lets not forget of the top four identified green house gas emitters agriculture is the only sector to have decreased emissions in recent years.

Farmers have a lot to be proud of and they are currently leading the pack in helping the community understand how they too can adapt and mitigate.

Professor Rich Eckard agrees farmers rethinking approach to climate change

While the effects of climate change have been increasing, so too has the acceptance for action amongst farmers, according to Dr Eckard.

“It’s changed over the last 15 years [and] when we first started, there was a fair bit of resistance in the farming community to the concept of climate change,” he said.

“And if you think about it, that’s not surprising because it’s actually quite a big issue to take on.

“Someone coming along and saying ‘you might not be able to farm like you are now in the future’ … that’s quite something to take on board.

“But I think we’ve seen a shift in that period of time where probably about 65 to 70 per cent of the farmers we deal with say ‘yep things have changed, we recognise they’ve changed, we need to do something, we need to adapt to that change’.” Source 

The Archibull Prize surveys mirror those done in the wider community which show that whilst almost everyone has heard of climate change, few understand it. Realistically if you can’t understand how can you possibly make changes in your life to reduce the human induced climate change impacts and meet the 2 degrees target.

Climate Change Pyramid

Teachers are looking at ways that they can make climate change relevant to students today. This example from Tenille Dowe at Northlakes High School

This year as part of The Archibull Prize challenges we have given the students the theme “Climate Change is a Shared Responsibility”. Using farmers and their farming practices adaption strategies as examples we hope to help the students take that important leap to community adoption action.

Climate Change and Red Ferrari

The students are on their journey and reflecting on what farmers are doing and how they can identify ways that they as individuals and part of a school community can follow  our farmers’ example

For example, farmers are very aware of how precious our natural resources are and this requires them to use our natural resources wisely.

Some of the ways farmers are doing this is by becoming more efficient and finding sustainable ways they can produce more food and fibre per ha of land and grow more “crop per drop”

Students are investigating the research that has been developed to grow more drought tolerant species that require less fertiliser.

Students have then been tasked with taking action by following the farming sectors lead?

For example, looking at their school

  • gardens – do they contain native drought tolerant plants and shrubs?
  • water and electricity use
  • recycling and reusing of waste

In 2015 The Archibull Prize impact study showed our Young Farming Champions were initiating and shaping these very important courageous conversations and it is clear the students are stepping up to

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I look forward to sharing with you the outcomes after all the future depends on humans getting this right.

Postscript

The latest report from the Climate Council On the Frontline: Climate Change & Rural Communities highlights the disproportionate impact of climate change  on rural and regional communities. It examines the systemic disadvantages experienced by rural and regional communities, which are likely to worsen if climate change continues unabated.

The report found

  • Climate change threatens to exacerbate the urban migration trend
  • Climate change is reducing water availability in areas of the Murray-Darling Basin
  • Farmers are adding additional revenue streams to their properties from renewable energy. About $20.6 million is paid annually in lease payments to farmers and landholders hosting wind turbines.
  • Renewable energy can reduce electricity costs for rural and remote communities, who traditionally pay much higher prices than their urban counterparts.
  • Many ag industries have made changes to the way they operate to counter climate change – but there is a limit to how much farmers can adapt – and it can be expensive and difficult

There is also good news the report also found rural and regional communities are already reaping the benefits associated with climate change solutions which provide unrivalled opportunities to attract jobs and investment back to these areas.

Some of those benefits include

  • Australia’s rural and regional population is falling and in 2011, there were nearly 20,000 fewer farmers than in 2006. Climate change threatens to exacerbate this urban migration trend.
  • Many agricultural industries have made changes to adapt to the changing climate, such as changing sowing and harvesting dates or switching to new breeds of livestock. But there is a limit to how much farmers can adapt – and it can be expensive and difficult.
  • Farmers are adding additional revenue streams to their properties from renewable energy. About $20.6 million is paid annually in lease payments to farmers and landholders hosting wind turbines.
  • Renewable energy can reduce electricity costs for rural and remote communities, who traditionally pay much higher prices than their urban counterparts.

 

 

 

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