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An Evaluation of Prairie Producer Attitudes towards Climate Change




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Many experts expect that climate change will likely have a significant impact on Canadian prairie agriculture. In turn, agriculture also may have a significant effect on climate. As an identifiable group, agricultural producers should possess some interest in climate change and its effect on agriculture. However, their opinions have not been particularly well documented. In this research, an opinion dynamics model forms the basis for a survey of farmer attitudes towards climate change and its associated risk. Important survey design characteristics include: 1) individual respondent uncertainty, 2) the influence of respondent interaction with others in developing opinions, 3) the role of expert groups in influencing respondent opinions, and 4) the influence of respondent memory of local climate events. In order to assess producer dynamics on this topic, separate surveys were formulated and administered to both producers and so-called “ag experts”. Both surveys examined the following three components: 1) respondent opinions, 2) respondent views on the other groups’ opinions and 3) the importance of information dissemination. The survey was administered to both producers and experts in Saskatchewan through the summer of 2008 and consisted of over 158 participants. Producers are classified using standard statistical techniques, including cluster and regression analysis. The survey yielded several intriguing results, including the following: 1) As of the date of the survey, 65% of the sample producers think that there will be considerable climate change and 66% of producers think that climate changes will affect the Canadian Prairies relatively soon (5-25 years). 36% of surveyed producers think that the climate change will be a net cost to Canadian prairies. Only 48% of producers believe human activity has had considerable impact on climate change. These findings hint at the potential difficulty of convincing producers to voluntarily take action to mitigate climate change. The two most important influences on producers are the categories of "Climatologist" and "Radio and TV". 2) Producer perceptions of ag expert opinion are mostly inaccurate. In general, farmers think experts have stronger climate change opinions than the experts themselves hold, although the number of experts polled was too small to draw precise conclusions. 3) In comparing communication channels, climatologists/scientists have the highest influence over producers, while radio/television and newspapers/magazines are the second most important source of influence. Somewhat surprisingly, friends and family members have very little influence on farmer attitudes. Finally, cluster analysis is used to group producers into clusters based on their similarity of opinion. Two methods were used to classify producers. The first method is based on producer most likely values; two clusters were identified: more concerned producers (MCP) and less concerned producers (LCP). The second method is based on relative belief uncertainty levels. Two clusters were identified: unconfident producers (UCP) and confident producers (CP). Of particular interest to policy makers may be the LCP/ UCP group which includes 24% of all producers.



Climate change, Prairie Producer Attitudes



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics


Agricultural Economics


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