Climate Adapt Asia: Adaptation Knowledge
This policy brief reflects on the role of knowledge in the adaptation to climate change.
It is not meant to be prescriptive but rather to provoke critical thinking about how information is mobilized, collated and disseminated in support of adaptation. There are four key messages.
First, knowledge important to adaptation can come from sources such as science and practice, as well as experience, customs and traditions.
Second, knowledge-action gaps arise not only because needed knowledge is missing, but also because existing knowledge is impractical, inaccessible or otherwise goes unused.
Third, narrowing of knowledge-action gaps requires active management of boundaries between knowledge holders and users.
Fourth, knowledge is important, but not sufficient for action. There must also be capacity and incentives or motivation.
The brief derives from the experiences of the Adaptation Knowledge Platform. It draws on issues raised at the October 2010 Adaptation Forum held in Bangkok’s United Nations Conference Centre and in an on-going series of sharing and learning seminars.
Science is a crucial source of research- or evidence-based knowledge for adaptation. This includes, for example, the likely behavior of specific climate variables, the sensitivity of particular ecosystems or households, the underlying social and political causes of individual vulnerability, the potential sources of resilience and the likely consequences and costs of alternative adaptation interventions.
The importance of scientific knowledge for adaptation is widely recognized. Formal assessment processes synthesize existing science and understanding and make them relevant for decision-makers in a particular place, sector or business.
Scientific networks that cut across academic – bureaucratic lines within countries, as well as across national borders, play key roles in building capacities to interpret and use the latest scientific knowledge.
Information systems that allow better sharing of data, methods, findings and case studies also play an important role in the dissemination of scientific knowledge. Good science communicators may not only synthesise findings but also help explain climate change and thus improve the understanding of climate risks by laypersons and officials.8 Mass media has had and will continue to have a very important role to play in making such knowledge more widely accessible.
However, scientific knowledge alone – useful as it can be – will not be sufficient for effectively adapting to climate change. Other sources of knowledge are also important.
Local knowledge, whether based on actual experiences, codified in traditions, or tacitly embedded in practices, is important to adaptation actions because it can take into account specific features of biophysical and social context. Local knowledge about past changes in climate or ecosystems, about sources of vulnerability and resilience, or about specific ways to adapt may be significant. Community-based approaches to disaster risk reduction and now, increasingly, to climate change adaptation often pay substantial attention to local knowledge.
Awareness of climate
Awareness of changes in climate or in ecosystems upon which livelihoods depend is an important form of local, experience-based, knowledge for adaptation. Users of natural resources learn about changes in their environment from direct observations or experience as well as from other users. Such local knowledge is not only critical to livelihoods, but also valued by scientists.
Villagers in eastern Tibet perceive changes in temperature, precipitation, and glacial retreat that correspond to instrumental data.12 Samoans monitor changes in plants and animal behavior to forecast changes in weather and climate and to anticipate extreme events. Inhabitants of Kiribati observe changes in temperature, rainfall, sea-level and water resources that are consistent with instrumental records and noted impacts on tree mortality. Local fishers in the Solomon Islands report that sea grass beds have expanded and observe a gradual sea-level rise over a fifty year period.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>