By Stephen Leahy
In what may be a ‘clash of worldviews,’ representatives from indigenous and local communities are holding a climate workshop with physicists, computer modellers, and other climate scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Cairns, Australia 26-28 March.
This is a unique opportunity for Native peoples to discuss their traditional knowledge and experiences as it relates to climate change.
Indigenous peoples are amongst the most affected by current and future climate change but their experiences and knowledge have largely been ignored by science experts at the IPCC. The workshop, Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples: Practices, Lessons Learned and Prospects, is a significant effort to change this.
There are an estimated 350 million indigenous peoples according to the United Nations. They legally own more than 11% of the world’s forests and those coincide with areas that hold up to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Traditional knowledge is a different but no less valid way of understanding the world. However, very few scientists of the thousands who have worked with the IPCC have any experience with traditional knowledge.
The IPCC is working on its next big report (to be released in 2014) and has acknowledged that its Fifth Assessment Report needs to look at how climate change will impact indigenous peoples, their role in reducing carbon emissions (mitigation) and what barriers they face in adapting to current and future climate impacts.
The Cairns workshop will focus on how indigenous peoples can help reduce global carbon emissions. It is being held in collaboration with the IPCC, indigenous organizations, the United Nations University (UNU), the Australian government and others.