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Advance guard: climate change impacts, adaptation, mitigation and indigenous peoples – a compendium of case studies

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K., G McLean
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This compendium presents a wide-ranging overview of more than 400 projects, case studies and research activities specifically related to climate change and Indigenous Peoples (IP). It provides a sketch of the climate and environmental changes, local observations and impacts being felt by communities in different regions, and outlines various adaptation and mitigation strategies that are currently being implemented by IP.From the case studies, the study finds that:

every indigenous community surveyed has observed impacts from temperature changes, although the degree varies and is more apparent in different seasons
a minority of indigenous communities report positive impacts from the increasing temperatures which result in the ability to grow new crops in the area
many communities report changes in rainfall, particularly with regard to the reduced predictability of precipitation
most communities report an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events
small island communities and other low-lying indigenous inhabitants all report devastating impacts of rising sea levels combined with the increases in extreme events.

The compendium makes the following observations:

due to their close relationship with the land, IP have been observing and reporting the impacts of global warming for several decades and are trying to cope with and adapt to these changes, with varying degrees of success
IP are proving an important source of climate history and baseline data, and play a valuable role in providing local scale expertise
the projects in the compendium reflect the reality that indigenous cultures are in different stages of development and face different internal and external challenges
urgent attention is needed to form long-term adaptation strategies to empower the extremely vulnerable IP to help them continue to develop robust coping mechanisms to address forced environmental migration
documenting and reviving valuable traditional knowledge that is being lost also often forms an integral part of climate-change projects
recognition of IP as custodians of climate information has led to the integration of indigenous-owned and led activities into national adaptation, development and poverty reduction plans
balancing carbon storage, biodiversity conservation and IPs’ livelihoods and production strategies is another important topic for consideration
mitigation initiatives such as REDD have the potential to cut carbon emissions, but they must be acceptable to the IP and ensure that their human rights are not violated.