IUCN has just produced a report called Indigenous and Traditional Peoples and Climate Change, to be released on 14 March 2008. Using as a reference the map Indigenous and Traditional Peoples of the World and the Global 200 Ecoregions, published by WWF in 2000, the report helps visualize how the impacts predicted in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could affect such groups.
Does climate change have specific implications for indigenous and traditional peoples of the world?
This question has been raised lately, but no comprehensive analysis has been done yet to answer it. Research has been conducted in some places, notably the Arctic, and some policy discussions have also taken place. Indigenous peoples’ organizations have been requesting for some time to be involved in the climate change policy debates, with limited results. The next session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (May 2008) will be again a venue to address this issue, and proposals have been submitted to host related discussions at IUCN’s Fourth World Conservation Congress.
For the report literature was examined on specific regional and ecosystem issues, and illustrative cases were collected.
As described in the report, there are at least three particular types of links between climate change and indigenous and traditional cultures:
- Traditional peoples have developed knowledge about climate variability and extreme natural events, due to their long and deep dependence on and relationship with natural phenomena.
- Traditional cultures have also developed strategies to adapt to climate variability, particularly in regions where the productivity of ecosystems is highly dependent on specific climatic conditions, such as the Arctic or the Sahel. Nomadic and transhumant pastoralism is one of such adaptations.
- Due to high dependence on natural ecosystems, the occupation of marginal lands, and a fragile situation in socio-economic and political terms, indigenous and traditional cultures are especially vulnerable to climate change and extreme natural phenomena. This is particularly evident in regions like the Arctic, the arid lands of Africa, and the islands of Oceania. The current rate of loss of traditional languages is already four times higher than biodiversity loss; with climate change, the loss of languages and cultures is likely to reach dramatic proportions.