Cognitive Biases

Once a farmer is convinced that the climate has changed, he or she must decide whether and how to respond. Most humans exhibit a considerable bias towards maintaining old ways, even in new environments, with the thought that what worked in the past should continue to work in the future. A clear example of this from the business world is that very few firms survive for long periods of time; the economy evolves largely by new firms replacing old ones rather than firms themselves adapting (Beinhocker 2006).

In agriculture, there may be a tendency to underestimate the need to change management in a new climate. For example, a survey recently conducted in the Yaqui Valley of Mexico asked wheat farmers whether they perceived a change in temperatures over the last decade, whether this change was positive or negative, and whether it had a positive, negative, or neutral effect on their yields (Ortiz-Monasterio and Lobell, 2005). Out of 88 farmers, 85 (or 97%) reported a significant shift in temperature, but only 33 (or 38%) felt the change had an effect on wheat yields, despite the fact that temperatures exert a strong control on yields in this region (Lobell et al. 2005).

Other surveys suggest an opposite problem: that farmers might be too quick to update their beliefs about changes in climate. In surveys of Canadian corn farmers, Smit et al. (1997) show that these farmers tend to heavily weight the previous year's weather in deciding what varieties to plant for the upcoming season. Though surveys are an imperfect means to gauging farmers' perceptions, these results illustrate that recognition of a climate trend is only one step towards successful adaptation.

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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