June 14, 2012 Rio de Janeiro
On 13 June 2012, UNU and UNESCO launched the co-published report “Weathering uncertainty: Traditional knowledge for climate change assessment and adaptation”.
This technical report, introduced at the International Council for Science’s five-day Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, is a unique resource that draws attention to a rapidly growing scientific literature on the contribution of indigenous and traditional knowledge to understanding climate change vulnerability, resilience and adaptation. The report seeks to broaden awareness and understanding of these knowledge systems for climate change scientists and decision-makers — including authors and reviewers of the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report (AR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Indigenous peoples around the world are already bearing witness to the worrisome transformations that climate change impacts are bringing to their hereditary territories and life-sustaining resources. As they have always done in the past, they make careful observations, exchange information and experiences, and debate the significance and implications for the future. This growing body of indigenous knowledge about the unfolding of climate change and its effects on people’s lives is an immense, but as yet little known, resource for the global community.
Despite the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Rio Earth Summit two decades ago, global debate has been dominated by climate scientists and policymakers. Only in 2007, with the release of IPCC’s iconoclastic Fourth Assessment Report, did the centre of gravity shift away from climate science and towards climate change adaptation. In that report, the IPCC recognized traditional knowledge as “an invaluable basis for developing adaptation and natural resource management strategies in response to environmental and other forms of change”.
The report is the product of an inter-agency partnership between UNU and UNESCO that also includes the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) and the UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP). The document was first planned and its preparation discussed at the international experts meeting on “Indigenous Peoples, Marginalized Populations and Climate Change” held in Mexico 19–21 July 2011, jointly organized by IPCC’s Working Group II on Adaptation, SCBD, UNDP-GEF SGP, UNESCO and UNU.
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Gretchen Kalonji, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences, emphasized that “this new UNESCO/UNU book underlines the critical role that indigenous peoples and local communities can play in ongoing international efforts to monitor the progress of global climate change impacts and to develop capacities to respond”.
UNU Vice-Rector Govindan Parayil added that “one of the most valuable outcomes for us during this collaborative process has been the intimate interaction it is encouraging between IPPC authors, climate scientists, indigenous experts, and community representatives. This sort of collaboration is providing important support for effective adaptation action on the ground”.
For more about the report launch, see the announcement on the UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative website or download the official press release (available in the right sidebar).