Climate change uncertainty among American farmers: an examination of multi-dimensional uncertainty and attitudes towards agricultural adaptation to climate change

Publication Title

Climate Change

Document Type


Department or Program

Environmental Studies

Publication Date



A large survey of corn farmers in twelve US midwestern states (n = 6849) was used to determine the role of multiple dimensions of uncertainty on prior experience with climate change, attitudes towards climate adaptation, and use of climate outlooks in agricultural decision-making. Epistemic uncertainty refers to a perception about the level of information about a phenomenon. Aleatoric uncertainty is a perception that a phenomenon occurs at random and no new information will reduce uncertainty while response uncertainty refers to the perception of the efficacy of an action to reduce a risk. Epistemic and response uncertainty explained a large portion of variance of farmers’ attitudes towards adaptation and their willingness to use weather and climate outlook tools. Aleatoric uncertainty however did not add or added only a small portion of variance explaining farmers’ attitudes climate adaptation or use of climate tools. Our results indicate that climate scientists should not treat farmers’ uncertainty as a monolithic concept, but instead embrace its multidimensionality. We also suggest that reception of expert-led presentations or tools that have a lot of modeling data, which are often layered with statistical uncertainty, can negatively influence farmers’ model uncertainty.

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