Environmental Management

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 492–504 | Cite as

Farmers and Climate Change: A Cross-National Comparison of Beliefs and Risk Perceptions in High-Income Countries

  • Linda S. ProkopyEmail author
  • J. G. Arbuckle
  • Andrew P. Barnes
  • V. R. Haden
  • Anthony Hogan
  • Meredith T. Niles
  • John Tyndall


Climate change has serious implications for the agricultural industry—both in terms of the need to adapt to a changing climate and to modify practices to mitigate for the impacts of climate change. In high-income countries where farming tends to be very intensive and large scale, it is important to understand farmers’ beliefs and concerns about climate change in order to develop appropriate policies and communication strategies. Looking across six study sites—Scotland, Midwestern United States, California, Australia, and two locations in New Zealand—this paper finds that over half of farmers in each location believe that climate change is occurring. However, there is a wide range of beliefs regarding the anthropogenic nature of climate change; only in Australia do a majority of farmers believe that climate change is anthropogenic. In all locations, a majority of farmers believe that climate change is not a threat to local agriculture. The different policy contexts and existing impacts from climate change are discussed as possible reasons for the variation in beliefs. This study compared varying surveys from the different locations and concludes that survey research on farmers and climate change in diverse locations should strive to include common questions to facilitate comparisons.


Climate change Farmers Beliefs Risk perceptions Surveys Agriculture 



The survey of Midwestern corn producers was developed through a collaboration of two United States Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA)-supported Projects, Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP): Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-based Cropping Systems (Award No. 2011-68002-30190) and Useful to Usable (U2U): Transforming Climate Variability and Change Information for Cereal Crop Producers (Award No. 2011-68002-30220). Additional funding was provided by the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Purdue University College of Agriculture, and the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service. The California Energy Commission (Grant # CEC-500-2012-032) provided funding for the California study, and we would like to thank Mark Lubell and Louise Jackson for their insights on this survey. This survey and research on Scottish dairy farming was supported by the European Commission Animal Change project (contract no. KBBE-266018) and the Scottish Government Research Programmes into Food and Economic Adaptation. We would like to thank Luiza Toma for her assistance on the Scottish questionnaire. Funding for the New Zealand survey and research was provided by AgResearch, Ltd., the United States National Science Foundation Graduate Research Program and the United States National Science Foundation Responding to Rapid Environmental Change IGERT program Grant NSF- DGE#0801430. We thank Robyn Dynes and Margaret Brown for their insights on the New Zealand survey. The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra, Australia supported the Australian survey.


  1. Adger WN, Arnell NW, Tompkins EL (2005) Successful adaptation to climate change across scales. Glob Environ Change 15(2):77–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andresen JA, Alagarswamy G, Guentchev G, Perdinan, Piromsopa K, Pollyea A, Van Ravensway J, Winkler JA (2013) Potential impacts of climate on row crop production in the Great Lakes Region, Chapter 6. Climate Change in the Midwest Impacts, Risks, Vulnerability, and Adaptation, pp. 82-91Google Scholar
  3. Arbuckle GJ, Prokopy LS, Haigh T, Hobbs J, Knoot T, Knutson C, Loy A et al (2013) Climate change beliefs, concerns, and attitudes toward adaptation and mitigation among farmers in the Midwestern United States. Clim Change 117(4):943–950CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnes A, Toma L (2012) A typology of dairy farmer perceptions towards climate change. Clim Change 112:507–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barnes AP, Willock J, Hall C, Toma L (2009) Farmer perspectives and practices regarding water pollution control programmes in Scotland. Agric Water Manag 96:1715–1722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barnett C, Hossell J, Perry M, Procter C, and Hughes G (2006) A handbook of climate trends across Scotland. SNIFFER project CC03, Scotland & Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research, pp. 66Google Scholar
  7. Barnett TP, Pierce DW, Hidalgo H, Bonfils C, Santer B, Das T, Bala G, Wood A, Nozawa T, Mirin A, Cayan D, Dettinger M (2008) Human-induced changes in the hydrology of the western United States. Science 316(102):1080–1083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beddington J, Asaduzzaman M, Clark M, Fernández A, Guillou M, Jahn M, Erda L, Mamo T, Van Bo N, Nobre CA, Scholes R, Sharma R, Wakhungu J (2012) Achieving food security in the face of climate change: final report from the commission on sustainable agriculture and climate change. CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Copenhagen, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  9. Brekke L, Dettinger M, Maurer E, Anderson M (2008) Significance of model credibility in estimating climate projection distributions for regional hydroclimatological risk assessments. Clim Change 89(3):371–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown M, Funk C (2008) Food Security Under Climate Change. Science 319:580–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bryant CR, Smit B, Brklacich M, Johnston TR, Smithers J, Chiotti Q, Singh B (2000) Adaptation in Canadian agriculture to climatic variability and change. Clim Change 45:181–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. California Air Resources Board (CARB). (2008) Climate change proposed scoping plan. California Environmental Protection Agency, Air Resources Board, Sacramento, CAGoogle Scholar
  13. California Air Resources Board (CARB) (2013) California Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2000-2011 by Category as Defined by the 2008 Scoping Plan, Sacramento, CA: California Environmental Protection Agency, Air Resources Board. Available at:
  14. California Department of Water Resources (2008) Managing an uncertain future: climate change adaptation strategies for California’s water. California Department of Water Resources, Sacramento, CAGoogle Scholar
  15. Cayan DR, Maurer EP, Dettinger MD, Tyree M, Hayhoe K (2008) Climate change scenarios for the California region. Clim Change 87(1):S21–S42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cayan DR, Das T, Pierce DW, Barnett TP, Tyree M, Gershunov A (2010) Hydrology of the early 21st century Southwest drought: possible harbinger of future decades. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107(50):21271–22126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chaplin-Kramer R, George MR (2013) Effects of Climate Change on Range Forage Production in the San Francisco Bay Area. PLoS ONE 8(3):e57723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clark AJ, Nottage RAC, Wilcocks L, Lee JM, Burke C, Kalaugher E, Roche J, Beukes P, Lieffering M, Newton PCD, Li FY, Vibart R, Teixeira EI, Brown HE, Fletcher AL, Hernandex-Ramirez G, Soltani A, Viljanen-Rollinson S, Horrocks A, Johnstone P, Clothier B, Hall A, Green S, Dunningham A, Kirschbaum MUF, Meason D, Payn T, Collins DBG, Woods RA, Rouse H, Duncan M, Snelder T, Cowie B (2012) Impacts of climate change on land-based sectors and adaptation options. In: Clark AJ, Nottage RAC, Hansford D (eds) Stakeholder Report to the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group. Ministry for Primary Industries, Wellington, p 76Google Scholar
  19. Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters). Amendment Act (2012) Public Act No 89. November 13, 2012Google Scholar
  20. Coumou D, Rahmstorf S (2012) A decade of weather extremes. Nat Clim Change 2:491–496Google Scholar
  21. CSIRO, BoM (2007) Climate change in Australia: technical report 2007. CSIRO, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  22. Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (2013) The carbon farming initiative (online).
  23. Dwyer J, Clark M, Kirwan J et al (2008) Review of Rural Development Instruments: DG Agri project 2006-G4-10. European Commission, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  24. Garnaut R (2011) The Garnaut review 2011: Australia in the global response to climate change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gbetibouo GA (2009) Understanding farmers’ perceptions and adaptations to climate change and variability: the case of the Limpopo Basin, South Africa, IFPRI. Discussion Paper. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. Gramig B, Barnard JB, Prokopy LS (2013) Farmer beliefs about climate change and carbon sequestration incentives. Climate Research. 56:157–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gwimbi P (2009) Cotton farmers’ vulnerability to climate change in Gokwe District (Zimbabwe): impact and influencing factors. J Disaster Risk Stud 2:81–92Google Scholar
  28. Haden VR, Niles MT, Lubell M, Perlman J, Jackson LE (2012) Global and local concerns: what attitudes and beliefs motivate farmers to mitigate and adapt to climate change? PLoS One 7(12):e52882CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Haden VR, Dempsey M, Wheeler S, Salas W, Jackson LE (2013) Use of local greenhouse gas inventories to prioritise opportunities for climate action planning and voluntary mitigation by agricultural stakeholders in California. J Environ Planning Manage 56(4):553–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harrington LMB, Lu M (2002) Beef feedlots in southwestern Kansas: local change, perceptions and the global change context. Glob Environ Change 12(4):273–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hawkes Bay Regional Council (online).
  32. Hogan A, Berry HL, Ng SP, Bode A (2011) Decisions made by farmers that relate to climate change. Agric Sci 23(1):36–39Google Scholar
  33. Holt CA, Shobe WM (2013) Investigation of the effects of emission market design on the market-based compliance mechanism of the California cap on greenhouse gas emissions (No. 2013-01). Center for Economic and Policy Studies, CharlottesvilleGoogle Scholar
  34. Howden SM, Soussana JF, Tubiello FN, Chhetri N, Dunlop M, Meinke H (2007) Adapting agriculture to climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci 104(50):19691–19696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: Synthesis report, summary for policymakers. In: Pachauri RK, Reisinger A (eds) Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  36. Jackson L, Haden VR, Hollander AD, Lee H, Lubell M, Mehta VK, O’Geen T, Niles M, Perlman J, Purkey D, Salas W, Sumner D, Tomuta M, Dempsey M, Wheeler SM (2012) Adaptation Strategies for Agricultural Sustainability in Yolo County. California, California Energy Commission, p 183 Publication number CEC-500-2011-031Google Scholar
  37. Kingwell R (2006). Climate change in Australia: agricultural impacts and adaptation. Australian Agribusiness Review, 14(1)Google Scholar
  38. Krosnick J, Holbrook A, Lowe L, Visser P (2006) The origins and consequences of democratic citizens’ policy agendas: a study of popular concern about global warming. Clim Change 77:7–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lal R, Delgado JA, Groffman PM, Millar N, Dell C, Rotz A (2011) Management to mitigate and adapt to climate change. J Soil Water Conserv 66(4):276–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Leiserowitz A (2006) Climate change risk perception and policy preferences: the role of affect, imagery, and values. Clim Change 77:45–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lobell DB, Field CB (2007) Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming. Environ Res Lett 2(1):014002CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lobell DB, Gourdji SM (2012) The influence of climate change on global crop productivity. Plant Physiol 160(4):1686–1697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lobell DB, Field CB, Cahill KN, Bonfils C (2006) Impacts of future climate change on California perennial crop yields: model projections with climate and crop uncertainties. Agric For Meteorol 141:208–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lobell DB, Cahill KN, Field CB (2007) Historical effects of temperature and precipitation on California crop yields. Clim Change 81:187–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lobell DB, Burke MB, Tebaldi C, Mastrandrea MD, Falcon WP, Naylor RL (2008) Prioritizing climate change adaptation needs for food security in 2030. Science 319(5863):607–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Maddison DJ (2007) The perception of and adaptation to climate change in Africa. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 4308Google Scholar
  47. Malcolm S, Marshall E, Aillery M, Heisey P, Livingston M, Day-Rubenstein K (2012) Agricultural adaptation to a changing climate: economic and environmental implications vary by U.S. region, ERR-136, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2012Google Scholar
  48. Marlborough District Council. Marlborough Region Land and Water Areas (online).
  49. McCarl BA (2010) Analysis of climate change implications for agriculture and forestry: an interdisciplinary effort. Clim Change 100(1):119–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Mertz O, Mbow C, Reenberg A, Diouf A (2009) Farmers’ perceptions of climate change and agricultural adaptation strategies in Rural Sahel. Environ Manage 43:804–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. National Institute for Water and Atmosphere (2008) Climate Change Projections for New Zealand (online).
  52. New Zealand Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry. (2011) A Guide to Reporting for Agricultural Activities Under the New Zealand Emissions Trading SchemeGoogle Scholar
  53. New Zealand Ministry for Environment. (2008) Climate change effects and impacts assessment. A Guidance Manual for Local Government in New Zealand. 2nd Edition. Prepared by Mullan, B., Wratt, D., Dean, S., Hollis, M., Allan, S., Williams, T., Kenny, G. National Institute for Water and Atmosphere Client Report WLG2007/62. pp. 156Google Scholar
  54. New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (2013) Agriculture and the Emissions Trading Scheme (online).
  55. New Zealand Ministry for the Environment. (2012b) Forestry in the Emissions Trading Scheme (online).
  56. Nicholls N (2004) The changing nature of Australian droughts. Clim Change 63:323–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Niemeier DA, Rowan D (2009) From kiosks to megastores: the evolving carbon market. Calif Agric 63(2):96–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Nigg JM, Mileti D (2002) Natural hazards and disasters. In: Dunlap RE, Michelson W (eds) Handbook of Environmental Sociology. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, pp 272–294Google Scholar
  59. Niles MT, Lubell M, Haden VR (2013a) Perceptions and responses to climate policy risks among California farmers. Glob Environ Change 23:1752–1760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Niles MT, Brown M, Dynes R, Lubell M (2013b) Understanding New Zealand and California farmer attitudes to climate change policy. Presentation at the New Zealand Climate Change Conference (online).,_meredith-_ok.pdf
  61. Niles MT, Lubell M, Brown M (2015) How limiting factors drive agricultural adaptation to climate change. Agric Ecosyst Environ 200(1):178–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. OECD/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2013) OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2013. OECD Publishing. doi: 10.1787/agr_outlook-2013-en Google Scholar
  63. Olmstead J, Klienschmit J (2011). A risky proposition: Crop insurance and climate change adaptation. Institute for Agriculture and Trade PolicyGoogle Scholar
  64. Pryor SC, Barthelmie RJ (2013) Climate change impacts, risks, vulnerability, and adaptation in the midwestern united states: what next? Chapter 17. Climate Change in the Midwest Impacts, Risks, Vulnerability, and Adaptation. pp. 230-257Google Scholar
  65. Rejesus RM, Mutuc-Hensley M, Mitchell PD, Coble KH, Knight TO (2013) U.S. agricultural producer perceptions of climate change. J Agric Appl Econ. 45(4):701–718Google Scholar
  66. Rowlinson P (2008) Adapting livestock production systems to climate change temperate zones. Livestock and Global Change conference proceedings, May 2008, TunisiaGoogle Scholar
  67. Rural and Environmental Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) (2013) Results from the June 2012 Agricultural Census. Scottish Government, Edinburgh, UKGoogle Scholar
  68. Schnepf R, Yacobucci B (2013) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Overview and Issues. Congressional Research Service, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  69. Scottish Government (2013) Low carbon Scotland: Meeting our emissions reduction targets 2013-2027. The Second Report on Proposals and PoliciesGoogle Scholar
  70. Smit B, Skinner MW (2002) Adaptation options in agriculture to climate change: a typology. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change 7(1):85–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Smith P, Olesen JE (2010) Synergies between the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change in agriculture. J Agric Sci 148(5):543–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Spence A, Poortinga W, Pidgeon NF (2012) The psychological distance of climate change. Risk Anal 32(6):957–972CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Statistics New Zealand (2012) Census of agriculture. Agricultural Area in Hectares by Usage and RegionGoogle Scholar
  74. Stubbs M (2010) Biomass crop assistance program (BCAP): status and issues. Congressional Research Service, Washington D.CGoogle Scholar
  75. Stuff New Zealand Business Day. (2010) Petrol Prices Rise as ETS Starts to Bite (online).
  76. Thornton PK, van de Steeg J, Notenbaert A, Herrero M (2009) The impacts of climate change on livestock and livestock systems in developing countries: a review of what we know and what we need to know. Agric Syst 101:113–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) (2013) BCAP biomass crop assistance program energy feedstocks from farmers and foresters. USDA Farm Service Agency, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  78. USDA-NASS (U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service) (2009) 2007 census of agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  79. USEPA (2013) Inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks: 1990–2011. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  80. Weinberg M, Meybeck A, Lankoski J, Redfern S, Azzu N, Gitz V (2012). Agricultural response to a changing climate: the role of economics and policy in the United States of America. In: Building resilience for adaptation to climate change in the agriculture sector. Proceedings of a Joint FAO/OECD Workshop, Rome, Italy, 23–24 April 2012. pp. 345–346. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)Google Scholar
  81. Wheeler S, Zuo A, Bjornlund H (2013) Farmers’ climate change beliefs and adaptation strategies for a water scarce future in Australia. Global Environ Change 23(2):537–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. White EM, Latta G, Alig RJ, Skog KE, Adams DM (2013) Biomass production from the US forest and agriculture sectors in support of a renewable electricity standard. Energy Policy 58:64–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Walthall CL, Hatfield J, Backlund P, Lengnick L, Marshall E, Walsh M, Adkins S, Aillery M, Ainsworth EA, Ammann C, Anderson CJ, Bartomeus I, Baumgard LH, Booker F, Bradley B, Blumenthal DM, Bunce J, Burkey K, Dabney SM, Delgado JA, Dukes J, Funk A, Garrett M, Glenn DA, Grantz D, Goodrich S, Hu RC, Izaurralde RAC, Jones S.H., Kim ADB, Leaky K, Lewers K, Mader TL, McClung A, Morgan J, Muth DJ, Nearing M, Oosterhuis DM, Ort D, Parmesan C, Pettigrew WT, Polley W, Rader R, Rice C, Rivington M, Rosskopf E, Salas WA, Sollenberger LE, Srygley R, Stöckle C, Takle ES, Timlin D, White JW, Winfree R, Wright-Morton L, Ziska, LH (2012) Climate change and agriculture in the United States: effects and adaptation. USDA Technical Bulletin 1935. Washington, D.C. 186 pages (online).

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda S. Prokopy
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. G. Arbuckle
    • 2
  • Andrew P. Barnes
    • 3
  • V. R. Haden
    • 4
  • Anthony Hogan
    • 5
  • Meredith T. Niles
    • 6
  • John Tyndall
    • 7
  1. 1.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  3. 3.Scotland’s Rural CollegeEdinburghScotland, UK
  4. 4.The Ohio State UniversityWoosterUSA
  5. 5.The Innovation CentreUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  6. 6.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  7. 7.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA

Personalised recommendations