Why traditional knowledge holds the key to climate change
Gleb Raygorodetsky
UNU, 13 December 2011

DARWIN, AUSTRALIA: In this article, Gleb Raygorodetsky from the UNU-IAS TK Initiative writes that the very identity of indigenous peoples is inextricably linked with their lands, which are located predominantly at the social-ecological margins of human habitation – such as small islands, tropical forests, high-altitude zones, coasts, desert margins and the circumpolar Arctic. At these margins, the consequences of climate change include effects on agriculture, pastoralism, fishing, hunting and gathering, and other subsistence activities, including access to water. Indigenous peoples however are not mere victims of climate change. With collective knowledge of the land, sky and sea, these peoples are excellent observers and interpreters of change in the environment. The ensuing community-based and collectively-held knowledge offers valuable insights, complementing scientific data with chronological and landscape-specific precision and detail that is critical for verifying climate models and evaluating climate change scenarios developed by scientists at much broader spatial and temporal scale. Moreover, indigenous knowledge provides a crucial foundation for community-based adaptation and mitigation actions that sustain resilience of social-ecological systems at the interconnected local, regional and global scales. Still, indigenous peoples continue to be excluded from the global processes of decision and policymaking such as the UN climate negotiations. The ongoing partnership between the UNU-IAS TKI and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) aims to address gaps in available information on TK and climate change adaptation and mitigation, and to promote respect for TK and the role of indigenous peoples in policy development. Read the article …