Seeding Food Innovation - Awarded Project 2016

Social and organizational dimensions of climate change mitigation among Alberta’s grain and beef producers

Project Description

This project will involve the identification of innovative practices in the beef and grain sectors with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and evaluation of the opportunities and barriers associated with the potential upscaling of these practices. Considering the large role played by agriculture in Alberta, reducing emissions from this sector will be key to achieving the goals of Alberta’s new Climate Leadership Plan. To create technologies and practices that can be adopted by farmers to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, Canada established the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program in 2010. The program created valuable mitigation technologies and carbon accounting tools, but there is virtually no information on whether, why, and how producers choose to switch practices and how organizations influence farm-level decision-making.

Our work on Alberta’s climate mitigation in the grain and beef production sectors will provide important contributions to the understanding of how social and economic factors affect farmer adoption of climate mitigation practices. Doing so will lead to our overall strategic goal: to inform planning and policy development that is designed to enable sector-wide upscaling of innovative mitigation technologies, encouraging more producers to take advantage of carbon credits, and ultimately enhancing the environmental sustainability of agricultural operations in Alberta.

The proposed research will be executed in four stages. First, we will conduct a social media discourse analysis of the climate change debate within the agriculture sector in Alberta. Second, we will conduct a telephone survey of a random sample of grain and livestock producers that will include questions about attitudes and behaviors, an inventory of respondent practices intended to reduce greenhouse gases, and reported barriers and enabling factors confronted in the adoption process. In our third step, a representative sample of 15 of those respondents reporting adoption of greenhouse gas reduction practices in the survey will be invited to participate in personal interviews, to give researchers the opportunity to explore in greater depth the personal, economic, and organizational factors influencing the adoption of innovative practices. Comparative evaluation of the mitigative potential of reported practices will also be conducted. In addition to producers, we will interview a sample of representatives of processor, retail, and related agricultural organizations.


Dr. Debra J. Davidson

Dr. Debra Davidson is Professor of Environmental Sociology, in the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, at the University of Alberta, where she has been employed since 1999. She is internationally recognized in the sociology of climate change, serving as one of few sociologists on the » More Info

Dr. Lianne Lefsrud

Dr. Lefsrud is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, at the University of Alberta. She focuses on decision-making for technological developments, institutional theory, computational methods, and risk management. She has received awards in 2013 for her work from both » More Info

Dr. Andreas Hamann

Dr. Hamman is a Professor in the Department of Renewable Resources, at the University of Alberta. He is an internationally-recognized climate scientist with expertise in global change biology, spatial data analysis, genetics, and climate change adaptation. He teaches statistical analysis, and advises on experimental » More Info