92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Monday, 23 January 2012: 5:15 PM
Climate Variability to Climate Change: Communicating Climate Risk to Farmers in the Southeast USA
Room 243 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Clyde William Fraisse, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL

The long-term goal of the climate extension program at the University of Florida is to contribute to the existence of a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry in the region, that is capable of adapting to and mitigating risks associated with climate variability and change. By using participatory approaches and taking advantage of well established partnerships with the agricultural industry already engaged in our climate variability extension program and decision support systems, we now aim at developing climate change adaptation strategies with increased chance of adoption by producers. Our program focuses on the following objectives/activities: 1. Increase climate science literacy of cooperative extension faculty across the state; 2. Integrate extension and research communities to facilitate the transfer of technologies and information about research gaps and needs of the industry; 3. Develop and conduct workshops and field days with producers to engage stakeholders; 4. Expand existing web-based tools to include climate change-related tools such as carbon, water, and nitrogen footprints; 5. Develop and deliver producer-oriented educational products such as FAQs, publications, and Web-based materials; and 6. Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the program. During a recent climate workshop organized by the Southeast Climate Consortium (SECC, http://SEclimate.org) with Extension faculty and producers from Alabama, Florida, and Georgia (Camilla, Georgia, April 12, 2010), an Auburn Extension Agronomist made the following statement: “I don't know what we are going to see 10 or 15 years from now. I think we need long-term strategies for change as far as agriculture is concerned. It's like trying to turn a cruise ship, you don't turn a sharp left or a sharp right, but you can start bending in one direction or another. I think that this kind of climate data and information can help make those minor shifts in one direction or another”. His observations reflect well our vision; we are not proposing sharp turns in the way agriculture is practiced in the region to adapt to potential climate change scenarios. We propose a gradual approach based on the enhancement of our existing climate extension efforts in the region. We aim at increasing the climate literacy of Extension faculty and producers in combination with an open discussion among stakeholders, extension and research faculty about climate and agriculture. We have been recently funded by the US Department of Agriculture to implement this vision in collaboration with extension specialists in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. We expect the results of this project to lead to an effective engagement of stakeholders in the development of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies that are scientifically sound and economically feasible. Results will be disseminated in various ways including the development of decision support tools in an open source platform (Agroclimate.org) that will facilitate the transference of knowledge gained to other regions of the country and the world. Our hypothesis is that many aspects related to vulnerability, defined as the degree of sensitivity and ability to cope with climate variability, and adaptation, defined as adjustments to environmental stresses caused by climate variability, can also be applied to climate change. This presentation will provide an overview of the project and discuss initial progress, challenges, and opportunities in Florida.

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