, Volume 120, Issue 3, pp 557-567
Date: 26 Mar 2013

Indigenous frameworks for observing and responding to climate change in Alaska

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Abstract

Despite a keen awareness of climate change, northern Indigenous Peoples have had limited participation in climate-change science due to limited access, power imbalances, and differences in worldview. A western science emphasis on facts and an indigenous emphasis on relationships to spiritual and biophysical components indicate important but distinct contributions that each knowledge system can make. Indigenous communities are experiencing widespread thawing of permafrost and coastal erosion exacerbated by loss of protective sea ice. These climate-induced changes threaten village infrastructure, water supplies, health, and safety. Climate-induced habitat changes associated with loss of sea ice and with landscape drying and extensive wildfires interact with northern development to bring both economic opportunities and environmental impacts. A multi-pronged approach to broadening indigenous participation in climate-change research should: 1) engage communities in designing climate-change solutions; 2) create an environment of mutual respect for multiple ways of knowing; 3) directly assist communities in achieving their adaptation goals; 4) promote partnerships that foster effective climate solutions from both western and indigenous perspectives; and 5) foster regional and international networking to share climate solutions.

Caleb Pungowiyi is deceased; Inuit leader/hunter.
This article is part of a Special Issue on “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences, and Actions” edited by Julie Koppel Maldonado, Rajul E. Pandya, and Benedict J. Colombi.
An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1187-z.