J6.3 A climate service experiment in developing a local and indigenous peoples' knowledge network for adaptation to drought and climate change

Wednesday, 26 January 2011: 4:30 PM
4C-4 (Washington State Convention Center)
Daniel Ferguson, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and S. Trainor, C. Anderson, and G. M. Garfin

As impacts from changing climates have been felt around the world, discussions have emerged about the need for a variety of climate services to help everyone from presidents and prime ministers to mayors and municipalities to farmers and fisherman deal with the implications of evolving climate regimes. The World Meteorological Organization is leading an effort to establish a framework for global climate services. In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has taken steps to establish a NOAA Climate Service that will contribute substantially to multi-agency US national climate service initiatives. A central question that underpins all of these discussions is: how can a climate service establish and maintain connections with diverse users and stakeholders who need reliable information? An issue that should be of particular concern to many government agencies is how a climate service can serve historically underserved populations that are often acutely vulnerable to climatic stressors. Here we report on a demonstration effort to use methods pioneered by NOAA's Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) teams to bring Indigenous resource managers and leaders from across three distinctly different regions in the United States together with climate researchers, NGOs, and federal agencies with video-conferencing technology. The regions include the US Southwest, Alaska, and the US Pacific Islands. The goals of these video-conferences were to foster open dialogue and cross-region learning about climate and environmental stressors, share information about adaptive strategies that have been undertaken by Indigenous peoples in the regions, and share basic information about tools and resources that are available for decision makers confronting climate challenges. This pilot effort yielded a number of key observations for US federal agencies charged with providing climate services to stakeholders, including the following: (1) direct engagement of Indigenous stakeholders offers opportunities for achieving a clear understanding decision contexts and decision support needs that differ from those of a majority of stakeholders, such as a desire for integrated and holistic approaches to environmental problems in which drought is not considered in isolation from other environmental stressors; (2) a sustained presence and commitment to ongoing and consistent engagement, along with commensurate resources, is essential to progress, given tribal institutional structures and resource limitations, and (3) for a national climate service to engage successfully with tribal and indigenous stakeholders, efforts must be goal-oriented (i.e., must address a substantial environmental challenge head-on), as capacity building alone is not sufficient to sustain interest, given the myriad competing challenges experienced in underserved communities.
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