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Local Indicators of Climate Change Impacts. The Contribution of Local Knowledge to Climate Change Research

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - LICCI (Local Indicators of Climate Change Impacts. The Contribution of Local Knowledge to Climate Change Research)

Reporting period: 2022-12-01 to 2023-05-31

In the quest to better understand local climate change impacts on physical, biological, and socioeconomic systems and how such impacts are locally perceived, scientists are challenged by the scarcity of grounded data. This has resulted in a call for exploring new data sources. People with a long history of interaction with the environment have developed complex knowledge systems that allow them to detect local impacts of climatic variability, but these insights are absent in climate change research and policy fora. The LICCI project aimed at capturing details about how Indigenous peoples and local communities perceive climate change impacts and how they have adapted their livelihoods and culture. These communities provide a different way of understanding the world and bring new views about climate change impacts that complement Western scientific understandings. Over five years, the community of practice organized around the project Local Indicators of Climate Change Impacts: The contribution of local knowledge to climate change research (hereafter LICCI) has worked to compiled Indigenous peoples and local communities reports of climate change impacts and adaptations. Such reports are part of a wider knowledge system that guides local livelihoods and relations to the local environment and can, therefore, inform interventions to adapt to climate change impacts.
The LICCI Consortium has worked in a globally-coordinated manner to review the literature and collect primary field-based data in 52 research sites in 35 countries to increase the transferability, integration, and scalability of Indigenous and local knowledge into climate change research and policy. The effort to collect locally relevant but cross-culturally comparable information using a common protocol has allowed the LICCI Consortium to identify context-specific singularities of individual sites, but also common trends. The main research results of the LICCI project refer to three different topics:

Climate change impacts on Indigenous Peoples and local communities
- Indigenous Peoples and local communities report numerous, ongoing tangible environmental changes in the local social-ecological systems that they have managed over generations.
- Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ report multiple and synergistic drivers of environmental change, beyond climate change.
- Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ reports of environmental change are not uniform. Rather, reports of climate change impacts vary across gender, age, and level of dependence on the environment.

Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ climate change adaptation strategies
- Indigenous Peoples and local communities respond to climate change impacts in plural ways and to different degrees.
- Social, political, and cultural barriers hamper Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ adaptive capacity.
- Indigenous and local knowledge systems provide contextualized and suitable adaptation options.

Working with different knowledge systems to contribute to climate change research and policy
- Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ conceptualizations of climate change are not fully transferable to Western scientific categories.
- Understandings of climate change impacts derived from Indigenous and local knowledge systems often, but not always, overlap with scientific understandings.
- Current research practices do not uphold Indigenous and local knowledge systems and ignore environmental impacts of research.

Based on these results, members of the LICCI Consortium advocate for the need to recognize Indigenous Peoples and local communities as legitimate custodians of knowledge regarding climate change and its impacts and as key rights-holders to participate in and contribute to climate change decision-making at both local and international levels. Concrete steps for decision makers and research institutions to put the aforementioned recommendation into action have been outlined in the LICCI Policy Brief (https://www.licci.eu/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/licci-policy-brief-standard-july.pdf)
Indigenous Peoples and local communities hold large, complex, and rich bodies of knowledge and historically grounded understandings of climate and environmental change, which are often used to inform their immediate adaptation strategies. Despite this strength, they are systematically marginalized in climate research and policy, as they are in many other social realms. Research findings of the LICCI Consortium consistently highlight the urgent need to recognize Indigenous Peoples and local communities as legitimate holders of critically important knowledge regarding climate change and its impacts, and as key rights-holders to participate in and contribute to climate change decision-making at both local and international levels. Given the extreme diversity of contexts in which Indigenous Peoples and local communities are found and the different research foci of our work, we also emphasize that the application of any of our policy recommendations will need to be carefully contextualized and co-created with local stakeholders.
Semi-structured interviews with Bassari people in Senegal