IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

C4. Indigenous knowledge for adaptation to climate change

C4.1 Overview

C4.1.1 Role of local and indigenous knowledge in adaptation and sustainability research (Chapter 20, Box 20.1)

Research on indigenous environmental knowledge has been undertaken in many countries, often in the context of understanding local oral histories and cultural attachment to place. A survey of research during the 1980s and early 1990s was produced by Johnson (1992). Reid et al. (2006) outline the many technical and social issues related to the intersection of different knowledge systems, and the challenge of linking the scales and contexts associated with these forms of knowledge. With the increased interest in climate change and global environmental change, recent studies have emerged that explore how indigenous knowledge can become part of a shared learning effort to address climate-change impacts and adaptation, and its links with sustainability. Some examples are indicated here.

Sutherland et al. (2005) describe a community-based vulnerability assessment in Samoa, addressing both future changes in climate-related exposure and future challenges for improving adaptive capacity. Twinomugisha (2005) describes the dangers of not considering local knowledge in dialogues on food security in Uganda.

A scenario-building exercise in Costa Rica has been undertaken as part of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA, 2005). This was a collaborative study in which indigenous communities and scientists developed common visions of future development. Two pilot 5-year storylines were constructed, incorporating aspects of coping with external drivers of development (Bennett and Zurek, 2006). Although this was not directly addressing climate change, it demonstrates the potential for joint scenario-building incorporating different forms of knowledge.

In Arctic Canada, traditional knowledge was used as part of an assessment which recognised the implications of climate change for the ecological integrity of a large freshwater delta (NRBS, 1996). In another case, an environmental assessment of a proposed mine was produced through a partnership with governments and indigenous peoples. Knowledge to facilitate sustainable development was identified as an explicit goal of the assessment, and climate-change impacts were listed as one of the long-term concerns for the region (WKSS, 2001).

Vlassova (2006) describes results of interviews with indigenous peoples of the Russian North on climate and environmental trends within the Russian boreal forest. Additional examples from the Arctic are described in ACIA (2005), Riedlinger and Berkes (2001), Krupnik and Jolly (2002), Furgal et al. (2006) and Chapter 15.