Farming for the future: emissions mitigation policies for Scottish livestock

Agriculture is one of the largest sources of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, contributing to approximately 20% of all emissions; being able to adapt farming practices to make them more sustainable and environmentally friendly is of the utmost importance. Over the summer I intend to research Scottish farmers’ attitudes towards and perceptions of climate change, the effects of these attitudes and perceptions on reducing greenhouse gases from agriculture, and how this shapes the future of farming in the United Kingdom. My research will be based at Scotland’s Rural College, where I will be working with Dr. Andrew Barnes and his team for about 10 weeks. The project will focus on surveying farmers’ opinions on the subject of climate change: whether they believe in it, if they acknowledge its risks to their profession, and if they believe their agricultural practices contribute to climate change in any way. It will, ideally, identify barriers and opportunities for deeper engagement between scientists and the farming community, in hopes of furthering programs that both decrease emissions and allow farmers to be financially prosperous under changing climatic conditions. Existing research has demonstrated that the lack of progress in reducing emissions from agriculture often results from poor communication between farmers, scientists, and policy makers; improving this communication is key to successful emissions mitigation policies in the agriculture sector. My research will be based on conducting in-person interviews and surveys with Scottish farmers regarding their attitudes and beliefs on climate change and its relevance for their farm. The interview and survey instruments will be developed in collaboration with Dr. Andres Barnes and his research team at Scotland’s Rural College, and address issues that complement their existing research on this topic. Data from these interviews and surveys will then be analyzed alongside Dr. Barnes’s existing data using qualitative content analysis techniques. Sources will include farmers near Edinburgh (identified by Dr. Barnes) and pre-existing data collected by Dr. Barnes and his research team at SRUC.  The intended outcomes of this research include analyzing data and co-writing research reports or publications with researchers at SRUC and further developing the research proposal I drafted in ENSP 440.