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.
Indigenous knowledge, although new to climate science, has been long recognized as a key source of information and insight in domains such as agroforestry, traditional medicine, biodiversity conservation, customary resource management, impact assessment, and natural disaster preparedness and response. Indigenous peoples and rural populations are keen observers of their natural environments.
Indigenous observations and interpretations of meteorological phenomena are at a much finer scale, have considerable temporal depth and highlight elements that may be marginal or even new to scientists. They focus on elements of significance for local livelihoods, security and well-being, and are thus essential for adaptation. Indigenous peoples’ observations contribute importantly to advancing climate science, by ensuring that assessments of climate change impacts and policies for climate change adaptation are meaningful and applicable at the local level.