12

Simply put, rural US districts tend to be more conservative so tend to vote Republican. And the rejection of climate change theory has been a bedrock of Republican politics for years by now.

If one assumes* that we are seeing early signs of persistent changes in weather pattern, then farmers, who professionally have been very attuned to long term weather conditions to be successful, ought to be aware of them.

Some examples of persistent weather patterns:

  • California has had multiple years of drought.
  • BC has had massive forest fires for 3 out of the last 4 years.
  • Extremely deadly forest fires in Portugal and Greece.
  • Global land and ocean temperature anomalies
  • the Mountain Pine Beetle decimated pines in the BC Interior Plateau. This happened because we didn't enough -35C winter temperatures, which are the only real natural constraint to this pest.

Now, clearly, some of these can be attributed to modern forest management practices. But farmers are precisely the kind of people who analyze weather trends for a living. So I would expect at least some of them to be worrying about long term temperature and precipitation trends.

Has there been any grassroots movement among the US farming and ranching communities (specifically, on the Republican side of things), questioning the wisdom of continued rejection of the IPCC findings? Even if they retain conservative views on other issues such as crime, abortion and immigration.

* If you disagree with climate change or any signs of it happening at all, that's fine and you can put that as an answer. That's self-explanatory as to why farmers wouldn't worry then.

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    Remember that the process so far has been relatively slow and people tend to adjust rather quickly. This is why fishery communities often don't realize that they are overfishing; they just think the catch has always been what it is. – henning Apr 12 at 11:11
  • re. the close vote. this question is certainly about trends within political parties so does that leave it off-limit? there are numerous questions on this site about party positions, for example politics.stackexchange.com/questions/40461/… – Italian Philosopher Apr 12 at 19:08
  • Vineyards in the south of England started out using German grapes. The result is a wine that is of slightly lower quality, but these German grapes are much less sensitive to bad / cold weather than French ones. About ten years ago, they have been replaced (source: Talking to the guys running Chapel Down in Kent) with French grapes which could then be grown successfully in England. – gnasher729 Apr 13 at 13:48
  • Note that climate change can have a positive impact locally, not just a negative one. Most of Canada will benefit from an increase in global temperatures. – JonathanReez Apr 14 at 6:22
14

Many farmers do seem to recognise that there are climate-related effects (even if they don't name it as such),

however, farmers don't always agree climate change is a result of human actions. The reason I think that's an important distinction is because if we're not the cause (link to myth) and it's not something we have influence on, then we don't need to take action. The reasoning is, that if we cannot do anything to change it, then it's not worth trying and putting money into.

I will quote some research to illustrate my point.

The first few lines of the conclusion of an article titled: Skeptical but Adapting: What Midwestern Farmers Say about Climate Change in the American Meteorological Society:

The farmers in our focus groups expressed skepticism about global, human-induced climate change and yet articulated climate change impacts they have experienced on their farms. They struggled to separate climate change adaptation actions from all the management decisions they make in an ever-shifting agricultural world. That farmers struggle to define the term, referring instead to “management decisions,” reflects this disconnect.

Another more accessible article by Scientific American:

In 2011, Arbuckle and his colleagues used the annual Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll to survey over 1,200 farmers in the state about their views on the subject.

Only 10.4 percent of participants agreed with the statement, "climate change is occurring and it is caused mostly by human activities."

The highest number of respondents, 35 percent, said climate change was caused about equally by natural changes in the environment and human causes. Just under a quarter (23 percent) said climate change was mostly caused by natural changes, 27 percent said there was not sufficient evidence, and 4.6 percent said climate change was not occurring.

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    So in the 2011 poll, 45.4 % of farmers agreed that humans have notable effect on climate change, but they still vote for party that denies it, which may cost them their living? Would the answers be different now, after polarization of voters? – Tomáš Zato Apr 12 at 9:01
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    At first i tought you were saying: "I'm being eaten by a bear. But that's a natural process and not my doing, i shouldn't invest energy into not being eaten". On second reading, your links point at the idea that we ARE walking into the bear's damn cave, and even if we're not, we might still carry a rifle if we're around bear-county. I think that you might make that a bit clearer. – CaptainAwesomeMcCoolName Apr 12 at 9:17
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    Given that the Dust Bowl was caused by more "local", i.e. regional rather than global "management decisions" I'm not too surprised to see that view among US farmers regarding the current changes. – Fizz Apr 12 at 13:50
  • @CaptainAwesomeMcCoolName I edited it, I hope it's clearer now. If not, feel free to propose your own edit. ;) – JJJ Apr 12 at 14:00
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    yours is a disheartening answer, really, if 95% of farmers think something is happening, but only 10% are listening to experts. It seems like there would be a huge opportunity to engage with those conservatives who see a problem. but, in order to find common ground, limit that engagement to only climate-related considerations and not the cornucopia of other changes progressives want. – Italian Philosopher Apr 12 at 19:14
5

Whereas one would expect farmers to notice changes in climate locally, it doesn’t follow that they are well placed to judge whether there is a broader pattern and whether the change is due to natural processes or due to anthropogenic change.

As rural areas tend to be conservative, one would expect, if all things are equal, that farmers would tend to favour initiatives to keep or conserve the climate as is rather than those promoting more climate change. However, all things are not equal: the climate change debate is heavily politicised as one would expect given that the fossil fuel industry has had several centuries to embed itself within the industrial fabric of a nation and has huge investments and industries at stake.

Given the nature of the debate, the proper forum for understanding what’s at stake, disentangling misinformation from information is the legislature. One instance of this is the Texas legislature which at the beginning of the millennium mandated that utilities get part of their energy from renewable sources, a mandate that was promoted by a tax credit. This has led to 18% of the states energy being sourced from renewables.

This remarkable achievement in only two decades has been so successful that it has attracted the attention of fossil fuel lobbyists. For example, the Texas Public Policy Foundation who employ around 20 lobbyists to target renewable energy subsidies.

  • I'm surprised that this answer is upvoted. It's full of unsourced claims about the "fossil fuel lobbyists" and other conspiracy theories. – Sjoerd Apr 12 at 18:09
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    @Sjoerd Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your point, but it's not a conspiracy theory (it's not even a secret) that the fossil fuel industry (like all other industries) employs lobbyists to advance their industry's interests. – divibisan Apr 12 at 18:52
  • @Sjoerd. I kinda of agree. I was asking about the effect on rural Republican voters of seeing (or not) signs of long-term changes in the weather. Not about what lobbyists might be doing to further the interests of their clients. – Italian Philosopher Apr 12 at 19:06
  • @Sjoerd: With search engines it’s easy enough to check out how valid these claims are. It’s not at all controversial that there is such a thing as a fossil fuel lobby. – Mozibur Ullah Apr 17 at 11:27
  • @Italian Philosopher: I answer that in the first two paragraphs and then go on to explain why people interested in the Climate Change debate should take note of what fossil fuel lobbyists say and why. – Mozibur Ullah Apr 17 at 11:30

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