UNU Climate workshop forging indigenous-local-science relationships

February 14th, 2011 by Citt Williams

In Mexico City, on 19-21st June 2011, an international workshop will bring together indigenous peoples, marginalized populations experts, developing country scientists and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to identify, compile and analyze relevant indigenous and local observations, knowledge and practices related to understanding climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation.

The workshops will provide a key opportunity to ensure that experience, sources of information and knowledge (scientific, indigenous and local), along with data and literature (scientific and grey), focusing on vulnerable and marginalized regions of the world are made available to the authors of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (published 2014) and the global community. This workshop is intended to redress the shortfall of available information on indigenous peoples and marginalized populations and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

A call for abstracts and more detailed background information about workshop is available from the United Nations University’s Traditional Knowledge Initiative website. A second workshop focusing on adaptation and mitigation will be held later in 2011 in Cairns, Australia.

The workshop is convened by United Nations University (UNU), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with the Mexican National Institute of Ecology (INE).

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Network on Climate Change in SIDS and the Arctic

February 13th, 2011 by Sabine

The network Many Strong Voices (MSV) now has a website featuring key documents and articles on Climate Change in Small Island Developing States and the Arctic (SIDS).

The goal of Many Strong Voices is to promote the well-being, security, and sustainability of coastal communities in the Arctic and SIDS by bringing these regions together to take action on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and to tell their stories to the world.

The Arctic and SIDS are barometers of global environmental change. They are considered critical testing grounds for the ideas and programmes that will strengthen the adaptive capacities of human societies confronting climate change.

Lessons learned through MSV will support policy development at local, regional, and international levels. They will provide decision makers in the two regions with the knowledge to safeguard and strengthen vulnerable social, economic, and natural systems.

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Roger Harrabin from the BBC on risk, the media and climate change

February 10th, 2011 by Core Group

On February 9th, Roger Harrabin spoke at Jesus College, University of Cambridge on the challenges of reporting climate change. He is one of the world’s senior journalists and broadcasters on the environment and energy and co-wrote the BBC’s guidance on reporting on Risk with the Head of BBC Politics, Sue Inglish, which calls for news instincts to be tempered by statistical perspective.

After his initial talk, some very interesting questions were asked and revealing answers given in the remaining hour that the discussion was opened to the floor.

Roger said that it was very easy for journalists to fall into lazy narratives about climate change and that in general, higher profile issues were usually deemed more newsworthy even though those issues might actually involve incredibly small numbers of affected people. The challenge for a journalist, he felt, lay in deciding what really matters and the meaning of inpartiality versus what already might be already in the public eye. He said that in his analysis the key ingredients in a standard news item were novelty, drama, conflict, personality and pictures.

Realistically, a Radio 4 news bulletin may reduce a complex climate change issue into some 120 words. The media must make brief, often high-impact statements to first draw attention before any complexity can be appreciated. Often journalists are not happy themselves with the way things are oversimplified but they also cannot risk baffling the public. Simply put, old debates are not news and a fresh paradigm is often preferred to restatement. The media is often forced to entertain and simple phrases/small moments run the risk of fostering longterm bias.

Roger also expressed concern at the polarisation of climate change debates between a “yes it does exist”, “no it doesn’t” approach. It was interesting to discover that nearly half of the audience were not aware that rhetorics warning against climate change directives because they limit our freedom and civil rights are often generated by “libertarian right” speakers. Meanwhile Roger also referred amongst others, to a “green left” which has been slow to embrace technology and the blogosphere in presenting alternative narratives to the predominant polarised debate.

Climategate is not easily dismissed. As a result many UK newspapers are now climate skeptics. There is “green fatigue” which can also feed counter-narratives. Roger suggested it would be just as much a mistake to assume that fossil fuel companies are funding doubt - as assuming the libertarian right are correct to combat the control agendas of governments - without looking carefully at the underlying science. Meanwhile on careful examination, we see that science has great uncertainty about the future extent of climate change. Critically, the lack of an alternative thesis doesn’t mean that other theses are necessarily correct.

Perhaps the most interesting point however was made by a member of the audience who pointed out that not only does the incitement of fear generate the media but that it generates the economy too. Perhaps climate change narratives could usefully be viewed through this lens: one where discourses of anxiety about our environmental future may also serve economic agendas.

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Postdisciplinarity: environmental science brings the disciplines together

February 5th, 2011 by Nayanika

In this interesting article on postdisciplinarity Mario Biagioli suggests that environmental studies offers the humanities an opportunity for expansion and postdisciplinarity:

Read here: Postdisciplinary Liaisons PDF

Louis Menand writes in The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University that that in the gradual shift from liberal arts education toward professional programs of study, American intellectuals have created an institutional structure of clearly defined disciplines that could provide relative job security for professors within myriad fields of study. But, that kind of specialization has also led to a professoriate with narrow boxes in which to operate and an ever-diminishing ability to engage in meaningful fdebates that affect society.

Julie Buckler of Harvard University meanwhile says that while transdisciplinarity refers to the highest level of integrated study - that which proposes the unity of intellectual frameworks beyond the disciplinary perspectives and points toward our potential to think in terms of frameworks, concepts, techniques, and vocabulary that we have not yet imagined – postdisciplinarity evokes an intellectual universe in which we inhabit the ruins of outmoded disciplinary structures, mediating between our nostalgia for this lost unity and our excitement at the intellectual freedom its demise can offer us.

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Indigenous people on climate change: UNU’s traditional Knowledge Initiative

January 31st, 2011 by Citt Williams

In recent years, indigenous peoples have been recognised as powerful knowledge holders on climate change and key actors for developing policy to mitigate and cope with its effects. Observations of ecosystem change by indigenous peoples are acting as a sentinel like warning system for climate change. More importantly, the long-term place-based adaptation approaches developed by indigenous peoples provide valuable examples for the global community of low-carbon sustainable lifestyle, critical to developing local adaptations strategies in the face of climate instability.

From the United Nations (UN) University’s Traditional Knowledge Initiative, a compendium of more than 400 case studies has been written to address how indigenous peoples have been affected by and are adapting to climate change. The report recommends that Western scientists draw on the knowledge and experience ofiIndigenous peoples when creating climate change policy. It provides a survey of current effects of and adaptive responses to climate and environmental changes, including various adaptation and mitigation strategies that are currently being implemented by indigenous peoples as they use their traditional knowledge and survival skills to trial adaptive responses to change.

As a complement to the compendium, the UNU’s “Indigenous Voices on Climate Change” online film festival, showcases a sharable playlist of over 22 climate story films made from within various traditional homelands.

Click here to download the 124-page compendium in PDF format

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January 21/22, 2011 CRASSH conference: presentations & papers

January 23rd, 2011 by Core Group

Following the success of our Network conference on January 21 & 22, 2011, we are now pleased to make available the discussant overviews, presentations and papers of each of the 4 panels. This post will be regularly updated as more items are made available. Please note that all presentations/papers are not for use without permissions of the author(s) and are subject to copyright restrictions:

Panel 1. East Anglian Fens case study: climate histories in the context of environmental change
Discussants: Paul Warde & John Flowerdew. Tim Ingold; Christopher Evans; Richard Irvine; Mina Gorji; Laura Cameron.

Panel 2. The environment as a type of memory.
Discussant: Ben Orlove. Kirsten Hastrup; Kathryn YusoffCharles French; Gustavo Ramirez Santiago; Citt Williams.

Panel 3. Communicating cultural knowledge of environmental change: the interdisciplinary challenges
Discussants: Marilyn Strathern & Mark Aldenderfer. Simon Schaffer; Hildegard Diemberger (Hans-F Graf & Xuefeng Cui); Jacqueline Hobbs (& Jason Davis); Maria-Luisa Nodari & Giorgio Vassena.

Panel 4. In the name of climate change: public, media & policy narratives
Discussant: Michael Bravo. Joe SmithTom Roberts; Nayanika Mathur; Liana Chua; Mike Hulme; Georg Kaser.

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Climate Histories CRASSH conference: Jan 21 & 22, 2011

January 16th, 2011 by Core Group

We’re pleased to remind you about our Network conference event, occurring at the end of this week. The conference will feature around 20 speakers on the communication of cultural knowledge of environmental change. If you would like attend, please contact Helga Brandt on hb380@cam.ac.uk

To see the conference schedule: click here
Conference programme: click here
To read the paper titles & abstracts: click here

Panels: 1) East Anglian Fens case study: climate change discourses in the context of environmental change; 2) climate change memory; 3) interdisciplinary challenges of communicating cultural knowledge of environmental change; and 4) ”in the name of climate change”: public, policy and media narratives.

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Comment on “Arctic with Bruce Parry”: In the name of climate change

January 15th, 2011 by Core Group

This current BBC series takes a non-academic look at the survival of hunter lifestyles in the North Pole environs. While it’s clear the environment is changing, it’s also clear that local practices are being limited in the name of climate change. Of particular interest is episode 2 on Greenland Inuits, where conservationist concerns and corporation mining is having a particularly high impact.

Watch episode 2: here

Bruce Parry journeys to the far north of Greenland, home to the last traditional Inuit hunters. He experiences the realities of life – and death – on a seal hunt, and learns how climate change is threatening their ancient way of life. But while global warming is causing problems for the hunters, it is providing others with new opportunities. As the vast Greenland ice sheet melts, new mineral riches are being revealed. Bruce works with a mining team who are about to strike it big. Greenland is changing fast – but will there still be a place for hunters in the Arctic of the 21st century?

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Data from Mauna Loa, Hawaii: 40% increase in CO2 levels

January 12th, 2011 by Sabine

On an observatory 11,000 feet high on Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii, a pair of ageing, automated detectors have produced their most alarming result to date. They showed that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have touched 390 parts per million – a 40% increase on pre-industrial levels.

Read whole article here

Most climate scientists say rises could easily go up to 4C to 6C, producing global average temperatures not seen on Earth for 50 million years. Deserts will spread, ice caps melt, coastal areas flood and millions forced from their homes.

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Climate Change: Alpine glaciers at risk by 2100

January 8th, 2011 by Maria-Luisa

A study published in Nature Geoscience on Sunday reporting on major Alpine countries, predicted that three quarters of Alpine mountain glaciers will disappear by 2100. Melting of the West Antarctic icesheet as a result of global warming may lead also to a 4m increase in sea level by the year 3000.

Read more here. For the complete article read here.

Geophysicists Valentina Radic and Regine Hock of the University of Alaska base these calculations on a computer model derived from records for more than 300 glaciers between 1961 and 2004.

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