Scalar Mismatches and Underlying Factors for Underutilization of Climate Information: Perspectives From Farmers and Ranchers

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Abstract

Growing demand for water resources coupled with climate-driven water scarcity and variability present critical challenges to agriculture in the Western US. Despite extensive resources allocated to downscaling climate projections and advances in understanding past, current, and future climatic conditions, climate information is underutilized in decisions made by agricultural producers. Climate information providers need to understand why this information is underutilized and what would better meet the needs of producers. To better understand how agricultural producers perceive and utilize climate information, we conducted five focus groups with farmers and ranchers across Montana. Focus groups revealed that there are fundamental scalar issues (spatial and temporal) that make climate information challenging for producers to use. While climate information is typically produced at regional, national, or global spatial scales and at a seasonal and mid- to end-of-century temporal scales, producers indicated that decision-making takes place at multiple intermediate and small temporal and spatial scales. In addition, producers described other drivers of decision-making that have little to do with climate information itself, but rather aspects of source credibility, past experience, trust in information, and the politics of climate change. Through engaging directly with end-users, climate information providers can better understand the spatial and temporal scales that align with different types of agricultural producers and decisions, as well as the limitations of information provision given the complexity of the decision context. Increased engagement between climate information providers and end-users can also address the important tradeoffs that exist between scale and uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish
Article number663071
JournalFrontiers in Climate
Volume3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 21 2021

Keywords

  • adaptation
  • agricultural decision-making
  • climate change
  • climate communication
  • climate decision-making
  • climate information
  • climate services

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