Understanding U.S. agricultural stakeholder views about the existence of climate change and its causes is central to developing interventions in support of adaptation and mitigation. Results from surveys conducted with six Midwestern stakeholder groups [corn producers, agricultural advisors, climatologists, extension educators, and two different cross-disciplinary teams of scientists funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA - NIFA)] reveal striking differences. Individuals representing these groups were asked in 2011/12 to "select the statement that best reflects your beliefs about climate change." Three of five answer options included the notion that climate change is occurring but for different reasons (mostly human activities; mostly natural; more or less equally by natural and human activities). The last two options were "there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether climate change is occurring or not" and "climate change is not occurring." Results reveal that agricultural and climate scientists are more likely to believe that climate change is mostly due to human activities (50%-67%) than farmers and advisors (8%-12%). Almost a quarter of farmers and agricultural advisors believe the source of climate change is mostly natural causes, and 22%-31% state that there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether it is occurring or not. This discrepancy in beliefs creates challenges for communicating climate science to agricultural stakeholders in ways that encourage adaptation and mitigation. Results suggest that engagement strategies that reduce threats to worldviews and increase public dialogue could make climate information more relevant to stakeholder groups with different belief structures.
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©2015 American Meteorological Society.